Seeking Upgrade of a Discharge and Acquiring Personal Military Records
By Donna Herron, Fort Bliss Legal Assistance Office
The Department of Defense has released clarifying guidance for discharges and military records reviews. In the past few years, the DoD has issued guidance for consideration of post-traumatic stress disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury but there remained some questions about how the guidance applied to sexual assault, sexual harassment, or mental health conditions other than PTSD.
This recent guidance fills in the gaps and resolves any confusion that veterans or discharge review boards may have had, and it ensures a fair and equitable review of separations for all veterans.
Veterans who desire a correction to their service record or who believe their discharge was unjust, erroneous, or warrants an upgrade, are encouraged to apply for review. Guidance to do this can be found at: https://www.defense.gov/Help-Center/Article/Article/2742507/requests-for-upgrade-of-discharge-characterization/.
For discharge upgrades, if the discharge was less than 15 years ago, the veteran should complete DD Form 293, found at: http://www.esd.whs.mil/Portals/54/Documents/DD/forms/dd/dd0293.pdf and send it to their Service’s Discharge Review Board (the address is on the form). If the discharge was over 15 years ago, the veteran should complete DD Form 149, found at: http://www.esd.whs.mil/Portals/54/Documents/DD/forms/dd/dd0149.pdf) and then send it to their Service’s Board for Correction of Military/Naval Records (the address is on the form).
For corrections of records other than discharges, veterans should complete the DD Form 149 and submit their request to their Service’s BCM/NR (again, the address is on the form).
In preparing an application for relief related to a mental health condition, PTSD, TBI, sexual assault or sexual harassment, the veteran should go through the questionnaire found on the website mentioned above and answer each question. Additionally, the veteran should include or identify any supporting evidence. Lastly, it is helpful, but not always required, to submit copies of the veteran’s applicable service records. The more information provided, the better the boards can understand the circumstances of the discharge.
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. To obtain one’s personnel records from DPRIS, go to https://www.dpris.dod.mil/, then select “Individual Veteran Access” on the left side of the website and follow the instructions. Veterans will need to register for a logon and verify their current mailing address before requesting records. The whole process usually takes less than 10 minutes. Those who served prior to 1997 or for whom electronic records are not available from DPRIS, can request their records from the National Personnel Records Center using the eVetRecs website at: http://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/.
Veterans who have a discharge after Dec. 20, 2019, and whose request for an upgrade was denied by the Services’ DRB may apply to the Discharge Appeal Review Board. Instructions may be found at: https://afrba-portal.cce.af.mil/#board-info/darb/navbar.
If you have more questions about this topic, please schedule an appointment to speak with an attorney at Fort Bliss Legal Assistance Office by either calling (915) 568-7141 during office hours or emailing email@example.com anytime.