Military Discharge Upgrade

Tens Of Thousands Of Vets May Have Been Awarded Less-than-honorable Discharges

If you or a loved one received less than an Honorable Discharge from the military, you may be losing out on significant benefits. Perhaps even more importantly, you may struggle from the shame of having your service described officially as “less than.” At KML, we understand that you want the discharge you deserve, and we know how to help.

Why Should I Seek A Military Discharge Upgrade

First, because you earned it! If you served sufficiently on active duty in our nation’s military, then Congress has mandated that the nation honor the sacrifice you (and your family) endured. The Veteran’s Administration (VA) is charged with providing VA benefits such as VA disability benefits, healthcare, educational assistance, housing, and many, many other valuable benefits. Even if you receive these benefits now, we recognize that the stigma and anxiety that comes with receiving less than an Honorable discharge is hard.

Second, because many less than honorable discharges were awarded unfairly or even unlawfully. For example, A recent news article discussed that tens of thousands of Vets will be receiving Department of the Army reviews of their military discharges since many may have received a discharge characterization that was less than they deserved. If you’re reading this section, you or a loved one may be in that same circumstance.

If you’re in one of these categories, and you want to do something to change it, you’re in the right place.

Am I Eligible For A Military Discharge Upgrade?

It depends. The different avenues of receiving a discharge upgrade have time limitations and restrictions, a full discussion of which is not possible here. Just know that you should NEVER assume that you are not eligible. Look into it. Get help. MAKE SURE before you give up.

How Can I Apply For A Military Discharge Upgrade

There are two different types of military boards that can review your discharge papers. One is the Discharge Review Board (DRB) and the other is the Board of Correction for Military Records (BCMR). Each board has different authority, timelines, restrictions, and limitations. This section will discuss the DRB. For a discussion about the BCMR, click here.

First, you’ll want to have your court martial lawyer request a copy of your military records, including your military medical records, as well as copies of any trial records if you endured a court martial. DO THIS IMMEDIATELY, as retrieving these records can take months. You then apply to the DRB online or via mail at the addresses provided below. To be successful, packages must show that your military discharge was “improper” or “inequitable.” Improper means factually incorrect or inconsistent with the law.

Inequitable means inconsistent with the traditions and policies of the service. The “standards” or tests which the reviewers apply to your application are based upon federal law and must be considered carefully. A “well-built” application will thoroughly discuss and provide evidence as to ALL the reasons you believe you are entitled to an upgrade. Any reasons you leave out, you may lose, even if you or your civilian military lawyer raise them later on. This is one of many reasons you should seriously consider getting the help of a law firm experienced in helping clients with DRB applications.

What Can A Discharge Review Board Do?

Generally, DRBs can upgrade the character of a discharge or change the reason for a discharge. However, DRBs cannot modify a discharge awarded at a General Court Martial, nor can a DRB change a discharge to or from medical retirement or medical discharge.  For those types of actions, the Vet would need to apply to the BCMR.

May I Appeal The Decision Of A DRB?

Absolutely! Read on. You may also ask for reconsideration of the DRB’s decision.

Do I Need A Military Lawyer To Help Me?

Probably not a bad idea. There are studies that show applicants with a military lawyer or military attorney are far more likely to receive upgrades than those without. This is likely due to the complex requirements and standards involved. An experienced military lawyer will know how to address those standards, what kind of evidence supports it, and how to argue “improper” or “inequitable.” In addition, having a lawyer may help you get reconsideration of a denied DRB request. That said, the internet is FULL of helpful sites and “how to” guides that will assist you if you decide to “go it alone”. Should you decide to do so, we provide the addresses for the DRB’s below.

But you shouldn’t need to spend a fortune to get a lawyer’s help. There are many Veteran’s Service Organizations (VSOs) and other Vet-focused groups that offer pro bono or low-cost assistance with DRB packages. There are thousands of Vets seeking these services and resources are limited so you may be required to establish financial need. Also, depending on the complexity of your case, many experienced military lawyers will reduce their “standard” cost to assist you. At KML, we try to make our fees affordable to all who need us. In fact, if you feel like you need help but can’t afford it, please visit our Pro Bono Page.

Can I Appeal The Discharge Review Board Decision?

Absolutely! First, you can ask for a “reconsideration” if you have “new” evidence that the Board didn’t consider the first time around. Second, you can appeal to the BCMR (BCNR for Navy or Marine Corps) and, once you’ve taken those steps, some veterans may appeal to the newly created Discharge Appeal Review Board (DARB). Click here for information on the BCMR/BCNR.

What Is The DARB?

The Discharge Appeal Review Board is a document review board that essentially gives you another bite at the apple when it comes to upgrading your discharge. It can also be used by a surviving spouse or even family members to upgrade the discharge of the deceased or incapacitated veteran so that the spouse or family member might receive the benefits incident to military service. 

Only military records from the BCM/NR case file will be reviewed (in other words, no personal hearings are permitted … it’s a document review only). Also, petitioners must first have tried to have the discharge upgraded through all other available means first. This means you must have submitted a request to the DRB, then a reconsideration request to DRB, and then a petition to and receive a decision from the BCMR before you may apply to the DARB. If the DARB recommends that the petitioner’s service characterization be upgraded, this recommendation will be transmitted to the Secretary of the Military Department concerned for final action.

Who Is Eligible To Apply To The DARB? 

Unfortunately, only service members separated on or after December 20, 2019 are eligible to the DARB.

What Can The DARB Do For Me?

If you (or a deceased or incapacitated spouse or parent) were discharged or dismissed on or after 20 December 2019 for one of the reasons below, the DARB has the authority to upgrade your discharge:

For Enlisted Personnel

  • Expiration of service obligation
  • Change in service obligations
  • Weight control failure
  • Convenience of the Government
  • Disability
  • Defective enlistments and induction
  • Unsatisfactory reserve participation
  • Secretarial plenary authority
  • Entry-level conduct/performance
  • Unsatisfactory performance
  • Misconduct
  • Separate in lieu of court-martial
  • Security
  • Drug abuse rehabilitation failure
  • Alcohol abuse rehabilitation failure

For Commissioned Officers

  • Substandard performance of duty
  • Misconduct or moral or professional dereliction
  • Retention not clearly consistent with national security interests
  • Sentence by court-martial
  • Dropping from the rolls

But Don’t Go It Alone!

As we discussed here, you don’t “need” a lawyer to submit these packages, but success rate data indicates it sure helps. Some of these Boards give you only one shot, so making the most of that chance is very important. This means you must submit a thorough and persuasive package the very first time. If you want to go it alone, click here to get started. BUT BE CAREFUL! An experienced discharge review board lawyer can help you prepare your case, gather evidence, and present your arguments in a clear and compelling way. A discharge upgrade attorney can also advise you on how to avoid common mistakes and pitfalls that could jeopardize your chances of success. Therefore, consider contacting an experienced military attorney for assistance before you submit your package. At King Military Law, our lawyers have extensive experience handling discharge appeals and we’re ready to help!

YOU DO HAVE A CHANCE TO GET YOUR DISCHARGE UPGRADED! But you must be careful, thorough, and thoughtful in how you go about it. Give us a call for a free consultation to help get you started.

We hope this information was helpful. Please feel free to reach out to us at KML if you think we can help.

Discharge Review Board Contact Information

Army Review Boards Agency
251 18th Street South
Suite 385
Arlington, VA 22202-3531
http://arba.army.pentagon.mil

Navy/Marine Corps
Secretary of the Navy
Council of Review Boards
ATTN: Naval Discharge Review Board
720 Kennon Ave S.E., Suite 309
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5023
secnav.navy.mil/mra/CORB/pages/ndrb/default.aspx 

Air Force
Air Force Review Boards Agency
SAF/MRBR
550-C Street West, Suite 40
Randolph AFB, TX 78150-4742

Coast Guard
Commandant (CG-122)
Attn: Office of Military Personnel
US Coast Guard
2100 2nd Street S.W., Stop 7801
Washington, DC 20593-7801
https://www.uscg.mil/Resources/legal/DRB/

King Military Law: Decades of Experience in YOUR Corner–When Experience Matters Most

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King Military Law
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Ariel DifoAriel Difo
02:32 17 Feb 24
I was told by my command and even military lawyers that my separation from the military was inevitable and that there was no way to fight it. I lost all hope was going to accept my separation from the military. But, thanks to the guidance of Mr. King, I was encouraged to fight for my name and was even able to win my board with the help of Mr. King and his Firm. Angela and Kasheta were always there to assist me with any questions or concerns I had, and Angela did an amazing job scrutinizing the discovery and finding many flaws with the accusations. It was their hard work and dedication that eventually led to me being retained in the military. Mr. King was always professional and instilled confidence in me that I had nothing to fear. I would highly recommend his firm, knowing that his team will give you one hundred percent of their efforts and help you fight for what's right.
Adam WAdam W
00:27 10 Feb 24
Don and his team at King Military Law are truly incredible people. It's rare that you can call a law firm and speak directly with a lawyer, let alone someone like Don. He gave my father and I exactly the information we needed despite the challenges that ensued. It gave us hope in a very difficult time. Even afterwards, he's done everything he can to help me and my family take action and hopefully help many others in the process. Thank you Don 🙏
cforceman1cforceman1
19:16 09 Feb 24
I recently hired Don King and his team for my legal situation and they delivered expertly. I was not sure what my options were and they laid it out for me in a way I can understand. There are no guarantees when it comes to legal situations but I was lucky that I went with what I came to see was the best in the game. Give them a call. I wish you the same result that I had especially with Angela and Kasheta on the case too.
B MB M
21:58 24 Jan 24
Potentially found myself on the wrong side of an NJP that would have jeopardized my military career and discharge. This was not only a threat to my meticulously built reputation, but also to my future after military service. I was incredibly worried with no idea who to contact or trust.Here comes King's Law Firm - they are a dedicated and diligent team, filled with experienced professionals that have seen almost anything a service member can encounter. This is crucial - they have the unique perspective to provide comprehensive and informed legal advice. Upon listening to my situation, they instantly had a plan of action for me. This provided so much clarity and much needed relief.I cannot stress how beneficial the King Law Firm team has been to me. I need to shout out Ms. De La Garza - she actively listen to me for well over 20 minutes so that she could have the most accurate understanding of my situation. Her attentive nature tied with vast experience makes her such an invaluable asset to have on your side.I deeply appreciate the help, and will certainly use your firm in the future!
Lucas VazquezLucas Vazquez
01:43 11 Jan 24
If you're seeking legal assistance, King Military Law is where you need to go. I was going through legal issues with my command, Mr. King and his staff did above and beyond to help me. From making me feel comfortable and guiding me throughout the case. I can't thank them enough.
Christopher EsquivelChristopher Esquivel
03:25 05 Dec 23
Mr. King is very knowledgeable in military law. He was able to help me and made sure to explain everything in the most simple terms so that I can ensure I was in good hands. He is quick to help you address the issues you are going through and help you find solutions.
kyle doughertykyle dougherty
01:23 02 Nov 23
Don King and his practice, "King Military Law," have been an absolute game-changer in my life. From the moment I spoke to Don for a free consultation over a year ago, I knew I was making the right choice. The journey that followed has been nothing short of extraordinary.I had the opportunity to consult with several military lawyers, but it was Don's unwavering commitment and his word that won me over. He assured me he would stand by my side, and that promise has been upheld most remarkably. Don, along with his exceptional paralegals, Angela and Katesha, embarked on a tireless journey to fight for my rights and my future.The most significant battle they helped me win was against an administrative separation board. The dedication and diligence they put into my case were unparalleled. They left no stone unturned, meticulously examining every detail and aspect of my situation. Their level of commitment to my case was nothing short of inspiring.What truly sets Don King and his team apart is their exceptional communication. They consistently went above and beyond, ensuring I was informed at every stage. Their accessibility and willingness to answer any questions I had, no matter the time or day, gave me peace of mind during what could have been an extremely stressful period for my family and me.Don and his team didn't just treat my case as another file; they treated it as a number one priority. Their genuine care and concern for my well-being and the well-being of my witnesses were evident throughout our time together. They provided support and advocacy that goes above and beyond the call of duty.In conclusion, I couldn't be more thrilled with my experience with King Military Law. Don King and his exceptional team have met and exceeded my expectations in every way. If you need military legal representation, I wholeheartedly recommend Don King and his practice. They are not just legal professionals; they are compassionate allies who will fight relentlessly to ensure that justice prevails. Thank you, Don King and King Military Law, for giving me a second chance and being the unwavering support I needed during a challenging time. You are nothing short of amazing.
Cody WhortonCody Whorton
04:54 21 Oct 23
I am a Chief Petty Officer; I have served for our world’s finest Navy for 13 years. Unfortunately, I had a potential career ending legal event that threatened me with an administrative separation board. After calling numerous lawyers in San Diego, I called Mr. Don King and his legal team. Let me tell you, it was one of the best decisions that I have ever made. After speaking with Mr. King, I immediately felt that I had the best legal representation that I could possibly find. I WAS RIGHT! Don is the most honest, hard-working, and compassionate lawyer you are going to find! His team fought for me like I was their son. His team is super responsive and always helpful. They were very knowledgeable and were able to answer all my questions regarding the process. Don’s paralegal Angela would always ensure all required documentation was in order and received in a timely manner. She would even talk to me when I was feeling down and ensured I was making the right decisions on my part. Don fought at my board like it was the last day on earth. This is the best legal team in San Diego. If you choose only one lawyer, choose Mr. Don King and his legal team. YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT! Thank you, King family! My wife and I will never forget what you did to help us win this battle.
Scott PRESTIGIOCOMOScott PRESTIGIOCOMO
00:29 14 Oct 23
Had a conversation today with Mr king about a military court case 2000 miles away and spoke with over 20 other attorneys and not 5 of them combined gave me the amount of advice that he did himself! Very well educated in his field with a wealth of knowledge. I have multiple high end attorneys on retainer here in my state so I’m not foreign to well experienced attorneys and this man was what I am familiar with when it comes to well experienced. Sad that I had to swim thru a pool of uneducated attorneys whom claimed to be the best in their field only to find out that they had no clue to what seemed to myself and my legal/political friends to be a somewhat simple question for someone claiming to be a pro! This man is the real deal! This is not a paid or fake comment and I have never met this person who is very far from here and he helped me as if I was standing in front of him! Even as he was walking his dog he took his own time to get back to me. If you’re looking for a legit attorney then you’ve found him! I’d give more stars if possible. I’ll be telling my friends on the west coast in the area about you. Thank you for your time sir!
Jess SackettJess Sackett
20:19 15 Sep 23
Mr King recently defended my daughter for misconduct. His defense ended with a unanimous board decision clearing my daughter of that charge. Mr King was tenacious and unrelenting in her case. His staff are true professionals and highly skilled and experienced in preparing the cases. If you or someone you know needs a lawyer who will fight for you Mr King is the one you want in your corner.
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