Defense: Review board gives vets another chance to upgrade discharge characterization

Washington, May 31, 2022.- Veterans who left the military after Dec. 20, 2019 with a discharge that’s less than honorable will now have the opportunity to appeal that discharge characterization via the Discharge Appeal Review Board and have their military record changed.

When a service member leaves the military, their discharge paperwork indicates the character of their discharge on a DD214. Most veterans will leave service with an honorable discharge. But due to their own actions while in uniform, a service member might receive a less favorable characterization of their service such as a bad conduct discharge or a discharge under other than honorable conditions.

The characterization of a discharge can affect the types of benefits a veteran is eligible for after military service — including educational benefits — and can also affect the kinds of jobs a veteran might be able to apply for after their military service concludes.

Veterans can already appeal the status of their discharge by having their own military service’s discharge review board, or DRB, reconsider the discharge status. Following that, they can also appeal to their service’s Board for Correction of Military/Naval Records, or BCM/NR.

Those avenues for reconsidering a discharge status are managed by individual services, each with their own cultures, customs and norms. Because of this, one veteran who hopes to change his or her discharge status might get a different outcome than a service member from a different service, even if their circumstances are similar.

«There may be a possibility of different outcomes, as each service has its own regulations for discharge in relationship to the type of offense, and some may emphasize certain factors over others,» said Phyllis Joyner, who chairs the DARB. «Commanders have the discretion to consider a wide variety of factors in determining what actions they take.» Joyner explained that many times, the less favorable discharge characterizations are decided by service members at discharge boards or courts-martial. When it comes to dismissals and dishonorable and bad conduct discharges, these are part of a court-martial sentence meted out by a military judge or military court members. Similarly, the administrative discharge characterizations are at times decided by a panel of board members, not just the commander.

«The combination of service culture, command discretion, and service characterization being determined by boards or courts composed of different service members leads to individualized outcomes, which may, at times, create unintended disparity,» noted Joyner. «The DARB will offer service members a final opportunity to seek relief at the DOD level,» Joyner added. «We just want to make sure that applicants receive a fair, just and equitable discharge from the outcomes across the services.»

The DARB, which was established by the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, operates independently of the military services and sits at the level of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. It provides veterans with a review of their discharge status that adheres to a consistent standard.

If a veteran has already appealed to their service’s DRB and Board for Correction of Military/Naval Records, and they are unhappy with the outcome, they can now appeal to the DARB as well.

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