Discharge Issues - Disabled American Veterans, Department of Georgia

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Discharge Issues

Veterans Programs
Discharge Upgrading

You should view the effort to get the character or reason for your military discharge changed as a battle. The enemy is the system that discharged you. Your strategy is to choose the most appropriate arguments to make and where to make them. Your ammunition is the evidence that you submit. If you're saying that you're not guilty then you have to prove it. If you're guilty, but you think that the punishment was too harsh or the law wasn't followed in your discharge process, you have to present a detailed argument and submit evidence.

Each service has a DRB, Discharge Review Board, and a BCMR, Board for the Correction of Military/Naval Records. Each board has different application forms, rules and powers. The DD 293 is the DRB application and the BCMR uses the DD 149. You can attach as many documents as necessary and you have up to 25 pages to present your arguments. Because the BCMR doesn't allow personal hearings and the DRB's do, most veterans take their cases to the DRB first. Take advantage of this hearing, it's the most important thing that you can do to make the upgrade more likely. DRB's can change thecharacter of discharge, the RE code and the reason for discharge, except changing the reason to “physical disability.” Only the BCMR, not the DRB, can review a discharge over 15 years old or upgrade a Bad Conduct Discharge, BCD, or Dishonorable Discharge, DD, given in a General Court Martial. Only the BCMR, not the DRB, can change the reason for discharge to physical disability, or revoke a discharge and reinstate a veteran to active duty.

You can argue that your discharge is “inequitable.” That means that it's “unfair” because it was too severe for the offenses that you committed. The Boards can determine that under “current standards” you shouldn't have been given a bad discharge. You could argue that the command didn't give enough weight to your previous good record, awards and decorations. You could argue that abuse or discrimination or that family or medical problems impaired your ability to serve.
You can argue that the discharge was “improper.” That means that they didn't follow the correct procedure when they discharged you. Perhaps they didn't do enough to “rehabilitate” you first. Perhaps you weren't given proper legal advice or were previously denied a discharge for other reasons. Perhaps the command didn't complete or process the forms correctly. Perhaps they violated rules during the Admin. Discharge Board hearing.

Start by getting your military records using the Standard Form 180 (SF 180.) Ask for “complete personnel and medical records including the case separation file and court martial transcript.” First write up your story about what happened. Next try to make a list of all evidence that proves your story is true. Go over your story and make sure that you use to all of the pieces of evidence. If you see that you need more evidence to prove critical points that you make in your story, explain why evidence is unavailable.

If medical opinions say that your Post Traumatic Stress Disorder caused the misconduct that earned you an OTH, General Discharge under Other Than Honorable conditions, or a BCD from a Special Court Martial, you may be able to get a medical discharge. Present the medical evidence to both boards. Ask the DRB for a change in character, and the BCMR for a change in reason. The same evidence can then be used to get “service connected” benefits and treatment priority from the VA.

Your odds of success improve with every document that you attach. Some Veterans Service Organizations provide help with this, but you have to look hard. Using a Discharge Upgrade manual or the “Reading Rooms” of previous BCMR or DRB decisions gets your odds above 50%. Lawyers cost but they can make the difference in difficult cases or if this is your second, or third try. We don't yet have any lawyers who are willing to help, but ask.

Discharge Review
Are you a veteran who needs to change, correct, or modify your discharge or dismissal? If you qualify and take the proper steps you can apply for a review of discharge and possibly have it changed.

Each of the military services maintains a discharge review board with authority to change, correct, or modify discharges or dismissals that are not issued by a sentence of a general court martial. The board has no authority to address medical discharges. The veteran or - if deceased or incompetent - the surviving spouse, next of kin or legal representative may apply for a review of discharge by writing to the military department concerned, using Department of Defense Form 293 (DD-293). This form may be obtained at any VA office. If more than 15 years have passed since discharge, DD Form 149 should be used for applications to the Board for the Correction of Military Records.

Service discharge review boards conduct hearings in Washington, D.C. Traveling review boards also visit selected cities to hear cases. In addition, the Army sends teams to locations to videotape the testimony of applicants for later review by a board in Washington, D.C.

Discharges awarded as a result of unauthorized absence in excess of 180 days make persons ineligible for VA benefits regardless of action taken by discharge review boards, unless VA determines there were compelling circumstances for the absences. In addition, boards for the correction of military records may consider such cases. Applications to these boards are made with DD Form 149.

Veterans with disabilities incurred or aggravated during active military service may qualify for medical or related benefits regardless of separation and characterization of service. Veterans separated administratively under other than honorable conditions may require that their discharge be reviewed for possible recharacterization, provided they file their appeal within 15 years of the date of separation.

Questions regarding the review of a discharge may be addressed to the appropriate discharge review board at the following addresses:

Army Discharge Review Board (ADRB)
Attention: SFMR-RBB
1901 South Bell Street, 2nd Floor,
VA 22202-4508.
Website: http://arba.army.pentagon.mil/index.htm

Navy and USMC
Secretary Of The Navy
Council of Review Boards
Attn: Naval Discharge Review Board
720 Kennon St Se Ste 309
Washington Navy Yard,
DC 20374-5023
Website: http://www.donhq.navy.mil/corb/ndrb/ndrbmainpage1.htm

Air Force
Air Force Military Personnel Center
Attention: DPMDOA1
Randolph AFB, TX 78150-6001

Coast Guard
Commandant (CG-122)
United States Coast Guard
2100 2nd Street S.W.
Washington, DC 20593-0001
The Army Board for Correction of Military Records
Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Can my Reentry Eligibility (RE) code be changed?
Answer: The RE code (Reentry Eligibility code) is determined by the reason for separation, not the character of separation (Honorable, General, or Under Other than Honorable).

The RE code is not changed or upgraded solely to allow enlistment (reentry into the service). Soldiers separated with an RE-3 or RE-4 code must seek a waiver from a recruiter to enlist. Depending on the type of discharge and disqualification, a waiver may not be possible.

According to Army Regulation 601-210 (Regular Army and Army Reserve Enlistment Program), the Reentry Eligibility (RE) code can only be changed if an incorrect code was entered for the reason of separation. For this type of correction, please send a letter and a copy of your DD Form 214 to the following address requesting the correction:
US Army Human Resources Command
Attention: Retention Branch (AHRC-EPF)
1600 Spearhead Division Drive, Dept 365
Fort Knox, KY 40121
If the Human Resources Command denies your request and you can provide evidence that the RE code is erroneous or unjust, you may apply to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records for a correction of the RE code.

If you were discharged within the last 15 years and can provide evidence that your reason for discharge is erroneous or unjust, you can apply to the Army Discharge Review Board requesting that your reason for separation be changed to the correct reason with corresponding RE code.

To apply to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records or the Army Discharge Review Board, you may complete an online application at http://actsonline.army.miland send the signature page and evidence as instructed by the online program – or – you may print a blank DD Form from the Army Review Boards Agency website at http://arba.army.pentagon.mil/ fill in the requested information, and mail it to the address shown on the reverse of the form. Please provide copies of all relevant military records in your possession and any evidence to support your request.

Question: I have a mandatory separation date approaching. Can the ABCMR suspend this action while my application is under review?
Answer: No, other personnel actions are not delayed or suspended when an application is submitted to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records for consideration. If the Board approves a correction that will affect a decision that was made during that period, the Board upon your request will also review the subsequent personnel action. However, it is your responsibility to ensure the ABCMR is aware of a pending retirement or separation date.

Question: Who may apply to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records (ABCMR)?
Answer: Current and former members of the United States Army (including Army Reserve and Army National Guard) may apply for a correction of error or injustice in their official Army records. If the current or former service member is deceased or incompetent, the service member's spouse, widow or widower, next of kin (mother, father, brother, sister, or children), legally designated representative, or other specified individual, can apply for the service member. An applicant must provide legal proof of the death or incompetence of the service member and proof of legal relationship to the service member. Former spouses of service member's may apply on issues relating to Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) benefits. Department of the Army civilian employees can apply in cases asserting an error or injustice in financial liability investigations of property loss (formerly known as reports of survey) or criminal titling, but not for civilian personnel or pay issues. Additionally, a proper party can authorize another to file on his or her behalf using the services of an attorney-at-law or a non-lawyer authorized to file in his or her behalf by a power of attorney (attorney-in-fact).

Question: How can I apply to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records?
Answer: On the Correction of Military Records page on this website, click on the Application Procedures heading where you may complete an online application and mail the signature page and evidence as instructed by the online program - or - you may print a blank DD Form 149, fill in the information, and mail it to the address shown on the reverse side of the form. The DD Form 149 on the Application Procedures page is in a .pdf fillable format. An application form can also be obtained from any military personnel office or by mailing a request for a form to: Army Review Boards Agency, Attn: Congressional Liaison and Inquiry, 251 18th Street South, Suite 385, Arlington, VA 22202-3531.

Question: What do I need to send with my application?
Answer: To support your application, please provide copies of all relevant military records in your possession and any evidence to support your request. Do not send originals. As part of your evidence, you need to provide copies of any correspondence you have had with other agencies to resolve your issue. The Army Board for Correction of Military Records will only address issues after all administrative recourse/appeals available to the applicant as outlined in Army Regulations have been exhausted.

Question: Is it necessary to submit a request for correction of records (DD Form 149) through an intermediate level review before submitting an application to the ABCMR?
Answer: Applications for Correction of Military Records, DD Form 149, are submitted directly to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records (ABCMR). However, all administrative remedies available at lower levels of the Army as outlined in Army Regulations must first be exhausted before an application will be considered by the ABCMR. Examples of exhausting administrative remedies are appealing evaluation reports, appealing unfavorable information in the personnel records, or requesting discharge review in accordance with applicable regulations. Applicants should provide with their DD Form 149 a copy of decisions from such administrative applications.

Question: How long should it take to process my application?
Answer: The Board reviews applications in the order in which they are received out of fairness to all. Due to the large number of applications already on hand and the complexity of many of the cases, it may be as long as 12 months from the date we receive your application before you receive notification of the decision on your request. Be assured that the Board will consider your application as soon as possible and will notify you by mail as soon as a decision is made.

Question: If the ABCMR receives an advisory opinion on my application from another agency, will I receive a copy of that opinion and will I have an opportunity to present any rebuttal to those opinions before they go to the Board for its consideration?
Answer: Yes, any advisory opinion received concerning your case will be referred to you for your review and comment prior to the Board considering your case. You will normally have 30 days from the date of the referral to provide any rebuttal or comments on the opinion to the Board. If an extension is required, you must request it in writing within 30 days of the referral date.

Question: Who will know about my case?
Answer: Submission of an application is a private matter between the applicant and the Board/Board staff. Only the applicant and those that the applicant authorizes in writing, such as counsel, will know about the case. However, some application information may be shared if the Board or Board staff requests an advisory opinion from other agencies that may possess relevant information or if any official agency that has a need to know requests information on individual cases. Under all circumstances, further release of information will be governed by the Privacy Act to protect the applicant's information.

Question: Who receives copies of the decisional documents?
Answer: Copies of the Board decision document and the Record of Proceedings are furnished to the applicant or the applicant's counsel. If a correction to military records is approved, the decision from the Board will be furnished to the appropriate agency to make the necessary corrections. A copy of the decision is placed in the restricted section of the applicant's official military personnel record.

Question: How long will it take to get paid if the Board grants a correction that affects my pay?
Answer: When the ABCMR determines that a correction is justified, it directs that the responsible agency make the necessary changes to the Army record. Once those changes have been made, that agency will notify the Defense Finance and Accounting System (DFAS) to make the necessary pay adjustments, if any. The ABCMR also notifies DFAS of the pending change so it can suspense any necessary pay adjustments. These actions normally take 3-4 months to complete after the Board's decision is published, depending on the number of agencies that must make corrections and the work load of the affected agencies and DFAS.

Question: Can I receive compensation (damages) from the ABCMR based on a substantiated injustice I suffered?
Answer: No, claims against the Government for damages or compensation must be presented to the Army Claims Service or appropriate Federal court.
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