Veterans upgrading less than fully honorable discharges should apply to their branch of service’s Discharge Review Board or Board for the Correction of Military Records. Both Boards generally have the authority to modify most military discharges. However, the Boards cannot modify discharges that were included in the sentence of a general courts martial. Deciding the Board to send your application to can be a complex legal question. A veterans law attorney can help you prepare a discharge upgrade application.

Choosing Between the BCMR or DRB

One of the first decisions Veterans must make after deciding to upgrade a less than fully honorable discharge is determining whether to apply to the Board for the Correction of Military Records (“BCMR”) or the Discharge Review Board (“DRB”). The decision to apply to a BCMR can be a complex legal decision that should not be made without the advice of counsel. This information is provided for educational purposes only.

The first factor to consider in choosing between the BCMR and DRB is the legal time limit for applying to each board. Veterans may only apply to a DRB fifteen years from the date of discharge. This is a strict deadline. Veterans that miss this deadline from the DRB are typically referred to the BCMR. Veterans may apply to the BCMR within three years of the date the Veteran discovers the “error or injustice” in their military records. Unlike the DRB, the BCMR is permitted to waive the three-year deadline.

In addition to statutory time limits, choosing between the BCMR and DRB will depend upon the information that needs to be amended in the Veteran’s record. For example, a discharge review board cannot upgrade a dishonorable discharge or bad conduct discharge issued by a “general courts martial.”

It is important to remember that many of these rules are based upon legal “terms of art” and exceptions to rules may apply. You should not apply to a BCMR or DRB without consulting with a veterans law attorney.

Assistance with BCMR and DRB Issues

Both the BCMR and DRB will issue a written decision on your discharge upgrade application. In most instances, Veterans can appeal adverse decisions to federal courts within six years of receiving the adverse decision. In some instances, it is possible for a Veteran to file a new, separate application with the BCMR after the DRB has denied a discharge upgrade application.

Because of the different options available to Veterans with other than honorable discharges, it is important for Veterans to consult with a veterans law attorney prior to applying to either the BCMR or DRB. In some instances, VA benefits may be available to Veterans with bad paper discharges, even if the Veteran’s BCMR or DRB has denied a discharge upgrade application. The Boards do not grant VA benefits – this is a separate application.

Veteran Esquire Legal Solutions, PLLC, assists Veterans from across the Nation in discharge upgrade and correction of military record cases. Please click here to contact a veterans law attorney. Veteran Esquire Legal Solutions offers free consultations for Veterans and their family members on discharge upgrade and correction of military records cases.


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