The Mayer Law Blog

A Few Discharge Review Board Notes – June 2015

Posted June 18th, 2015 in Military Law

Here are a few thoughts after my last few trips to the various service discharge review boards:

  • It can be difficult to argue that you were innocent of the acts that gave rise to a discharge. The board initially believes that an applicant is guilty, and the burden is on the applicant to prove otherwise. Unless independent evidence exists, it may not be possible to overcome this presumption.
  • Reading the reactions of the board can be difficult, especially if you are the applicant. Sometimes, the nature of their questions and body language will bely their presumptions and conclusions. If you notice these, you can adjust your case accordingly and have a better chance at success. This is where it can be helpful to have a military lawyer or other impartial advocate next to you during the appearance.
  • Framing the issues for the board is crucial. Determining key themes and talking points based on these issues helps in communicating a coherent story.
  • With discharges in lieu of court-martial, there is a heavy presumption that “you got what you asked for.” Rebutting this takes skill, good evidence, and a bit of luck.
  • Having a solid post-service resume is what most cases hinge-upon. The following are particularly helpful:
    • College degrees
    • Volunteer work (significant)
    • Membership in civic organizations
    • Solid employment history and dedication to a particular vocation
    • Engaging in activities that support the military
  • While the board is not an adversarial proceeding, it doesn’t hurt to treat them in the same way as a court-martial panel.
  • If your case involves a positive urinalysis test, it is best to wait several years before attempting an upgrade.
  • Your reasons for the conduct that caused you to be discharged may sound good to you, but the board may not think it sounds as good. Whether you have a military lawyer or other independent advocate, they need to evaluate your presentation honestly. This may hurt your feelings, but it is better than looking stupid in front of the board.

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