I take a handful of discharge upgrade cases each year. I am very selective on the cases I take for several reasons: the cases have a long lifespan if they are done right (normally more than 2 years); the chance of success is relatively low if the case does not involve PTSD, homosexuality and a few other specific issues; and, most potential clients can’t articulate the reason why their discharge should be upgraded other than they want to get VA benefits – that’s not the type of case I want because the standard to upgrade a discharge is that it was improper or unjust, and it’s the applicants burden to demonstrate so. I just don’t like taking a fee from people if I don’t think I can deliver some value! That being said, based on what I have seen, a discharge review board or board of corrections application submitted by an experienced military law attorney is almost always significantly more concise and thorough than one submitted by the former servicemember without any skilled assistance.
And this is where the VA comes in. Each service has two different boards, as mentioned above – the discharge review board and the board of corrections. Generally, if one is simply seeking a discharge upgrade, the best place to start is with a record review by the discharge review board. But the VA has made it even simpler. A new survey that’s pretty darn good will tell you which board you should apply to based on your answers. It then tells you how to apply and gives some good guidance on what information to include. The website is: https://www.va.gov/discharge-upgrade-instructions/
The VA advertises it as:
Answer a series of questions to get customized step-by-step instructions on how to apply for a discharge upgrade or correction. If your application goes through and your discharge is upgraded, you’ll be eligible for the VA benefits you earned during your period of service.
Every time I turn down a client who wants a discharge upgrade, I tell them to apply regardless of what I say because there is no fee associated with applying (not even postage these days with many of the boards accepting email or online submissions). The worst thing that can happen is the board denies the requested relief.
Attorney Patrick Korody is a former Navy JAG and military justice expert. He routinely handles high profile misconduct cases for military members. He maintains an office in Jacksonville, FL where he handles state, federal, and military cases.