The Defense Department wants to make sure its veterans know they can apply to correct inaccuracies or injustices in their military records, including an upgrade in discharge, officials for the DOD’s legal policy office said.
“Veterans who believe they have suffered an inequity or injustice warranting a correction to their service record or who believe their discharge was unjust, erroneous or warrants an upgrade are encouraged to apply,” said Christa Specht, director of the Office of Legal Policy.
For example, veterans who received less than honorable discharges can file an application to request their military records be changed as long as they provide justifiable supplemental information for approval by their military department’s Board for Correction of Military/Naval Records or Discharge Review Board.
Furthermore, applications to a military department review board that allege a veteran suffered from a mental health condition, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, sexual assault or sexual harassment while on duty, will be reviewed using a “liberal consideration” standard, according to a May 26 memorandum from the acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
Also, on Feb. 19, 2021, the department directed the secretaries of the military departments to identify and examine the records of any service member who was involuntarily separated, discharged, or denied reenlistment or continuation of service in accordance with the prior administration’s policies relating to gender identity. The military departments issued supplemental guidance to their respective Boards for Correction of Military/Naval Records for review of service members’ records so that, where appropriate, individuals who meet current accession standards and are otherwise eligible are offered an opportunity to rejoin the military.
The boards can also grant relief based on clemency, Specht said, noting that those who got out of the military with a less than honorable discharge might still have positive accomplishments or evidence of good conduct to provide a review board in support of an upgrade. This may include indications of rehabilitation such as a long job history, absence of additional misconduct, character references, or proof of extensive volunteer work.
One incentive for veterans to request an upgrade to their discharge is so they can qualify for Department of Veterans Affairs benefits, such as the GI Bill and VA mortgages, said Margarete Ashmore, deputy director of the DOD’s legal policy office.
How to request a change
Veterans who want to ask for discharge upgrades, reconsiderations of previously denied upgrades, or corrections to other military records should fill out the appropriate form and return it to their service’s review board at the address listed on the form. Links to the forms can be found at the end of this article.
* For discharges fewer than 15 years ago, veterans should complete DD Form 293.
* For discharges more than 15 years ago or in cases already considered for upgrade and denied by a military department Discharge Review Board, veterans should complete DD Form 149.
* For corrections of records other than discharges, veterans should complete the DD Form 149.
If a veteran is unsure how or where to apply for a discharge upgrade or correction, the VA, in partnership with the DOD, provides resources that can be used to help with applications and provide personal instructions in response to a few questions on the public website.
Essential Information to Include in Applications
Veterans should include the following information:
* Explain why the discharge or other record was unjust or erroneous: How is it connected to or resulting from unjust policies, a physical or mental health condition related to military service, or some other explainable or justifiable circumstance?
* Provide support, where applicable, for key facts. If a veteran has a relevant medical diagnosis, for example, it would be helpful to include medical records that reflect that diagnosis.
* Submit copies of applicable service records.
Specht emphasized that the more information a veteran provides, the easier it is for the review boards to understand the circumstances of the correction being sought.
Personnel records for veterans who served after 1997 should be accessible online and are usually retrievable within hours of a request through the Defense Personnel Records Information Retrieval System (DPRIS). To obtain a personnel record from DPRIS, visit the website, select “Individual Veteran Access” on the left side, and follow the instructions. Veterans must register for access and verify their mailing address before requesting records.
Those who served before 1997 or for whom electronic records are not available from DPRIS can request their records from the National Archives’ National Personnel Records Center using the eVetRecs website.
Additional information is available at:
Air Force BCMR
Air Force DRB