The Mayer Law Blog

A Few Gentle Reminders About Discharge Upgrades

Posted September 11th, 2014 in Military Law

Recently, I watched a youtube video by two civilian military law practitioners. The video appears high in a Google search for Discharge Upgrade Lawyers. They were attempting to explain some of the important factors about discharge upgrade cases. Unfortunately, much of what they said was wrong.

I will not call them out for this, as their firm is no longer in business, and I bear neither of them ill will. However, you deserve to know the truth about the process.

My discharge can only be upgraded one level. False.

In the video, one of the military lawyers states that you can only upgrade your discharge one level. So, if you have an Other Than Honorable characterization, this would mean that the best you can receive is a General, Under Honorable Conditions characterization. This is false.

It is possible to upgrade your discharge all the way to Honorable. How do I know? Well, I’ve seen it in practice. Here is the result from one of my clients who left the Marine Corps with an Other Than Honorable characterization. The vote was close, but a win is a win.

Screenshot 2013-10-27 12.31.53

While obtaining an Honorable Discharge may be difficult in some cases, it is certainly not impossible.

You only get one chance to upgrade your discharge. False.

A bit later in the video, one of the military lawyers states that you only have one chance to appeal your discharge at the Discharge Review Board. This is false.

You can appeal your discharge to the Discharge Review Board in one of two ways–Personal Appearance and Records Review. With a personal appearance, you appear physically in front of the board to explain your circumstances and present paperwork in support of your application. With a records review, the case is decided based on paperwork alone.

If your first appeal is a Personal Appearance, then you cannot appeal again.

However, if your first appeal is a Records Review, then you can appeal again if the first decision is not favorable. The second appeal may be either a personal appearance or a second records review.

So, as you can see, if you play your cards right, you actually can appeal your case twice to the board. You just need to be mindful of procedural limitations.

It is also possible to later appeal to the Board for Correction of Military Records, but these appeals are not likely to succeed unless truly exceptional circumstances exist.

There is no such thing as an automatic upgrade to a military discharge. True!

They did get one thing very, very right. There is no such thing as an automatic upgrade. This rumor has floated around barracks worldwide since the Discharge Review Board began in the 1970s. If someone tells you that your discharge will upgrade after 6 months, they are either lying or grossly misinformed. It just doesn’t happen.

Think about it. If your discharge automatically upgraded to honorable after 6 months, why would your commanders go through the work necessary to give you a less-than-honorable discharge? It wouldn’t be worth the time or effort.

Let me emphasize.

There are no automatic upgrades. There are no automatic upgrades. There are no automatic upgrades.


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