I’m disqualified from VA benefits because of my negative discharge status. How can I have my discharge status reviewed for an upgrade?

These requests are rarely granted, so you may want to get help.

If you left the military less than 15 years ago, apply for a “Review of Discharge or Dismissal” using Department of Defense’s DD Form 293 (see copy of form in Appendix N, PG. 543.[1803] You can also have the form mailed to you by calling the VA at 1-703-607-1600; or by sending a written request to: Army Review Boards Agency; ATTN: Client Information and Quality Assurance; Arlington, VA 22202-4508. Alternatively, obtain DD Form 293 from a VA regional office, or online at http://www.usapa.army.mil.

    The Review Board will grant your uPGrade request only if your discharge reason was “inequitable” (not consistent with the policies and traditions of the service) or “improper” (based on error, or violating a law or regulation). With your application form, include written statements and records that help prove this.[1804]

If you left the military more than 15 years ago, apply for a Correction of Military Records using DD Form 149 (see copy of form in Appendix O, PG. 548).[1805]You can also have the form mailed to you by calling the VA at 1-703-607-1600; or by sending a written request to: Army Review Boards Agency; ATTN: Client Information and Quality Assurance; Arlington, VA 22202-4508. Alternatively, obtain DD Form 149 from a VA regional office, or online at www.usapa.army.mil.

    Generally, you must request a correction within 3 years of discovering an “error” or “injustice” in your record. However, if the Board for Correction finds it is “in the interest of justice” to excuse a late request, it may do so. If your request is late, you must explain why your application was delayed, and why it’s in the interest of justice for the Board to consider it despite the delay. To show it is in the “interest of justice,” explain why it would be unfair for the Board to not consider your request.
    The Board for Correction will grant your request if you show that something in the record is inaccurate or unjust. With your application form, include ALL available evidence that helps to prove this, such as signed witness statements, personnel records, or a brief of arguments supporting the correction.[1806]

Because these applications are rarely granted, consider the following options to get help:

    Contact a local veteran service organization to see if any staff can help you complete the forms and/or represent you.
    Find a legal aid lawyer who specializes in discharge reviews.
    Using the contact information provided on the form (see DD 293 or DD 149, whichever applied to you), contact the Review Board to discuss your case and ask questions.[1807]

IMPORTANT: If you have an undesirable, other than honorable (OTH), or a bad conduct discharge, you may be eligible for VA benefits if the VA determines that your service was “other than dishonorable” through the Character of Discharge administrative process.[1808] You may apply for a Character of Discharge determination by applying for any VA benefit.

  1. 1803

    DD Form 293 is available at www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/infomgt/forms/eforms/dd0293.pdf; National Archives, Veterans Service Records, www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/correct-service-records.html.

  2. 1804

    What You Should Know About How to UpGrade Your Military Discharge, U.S. Army Trial Defense Service, Region V, Fort Lewis Field Office, http://www.monterey.army.mil/legal/trial_defense/how_to_uPGrade_your_discharge.pdf

  3. 1805

    DD Form 149 is available at www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/infomgt/forms/eforms/dd0149.pdf; National Archives, Veterans Service Records, www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/correct-service-records.html.

  4. 1806

    Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents & Survivors (2014), U.S. Dep’t of Veterans Affairs, www.va.gov/opa/publications/benefits_book/benefits_chap15.asp

  5. 1807

    What You Should Know About How to UpGrade Your Military Discharge, U.S. Army Trial Defense Service, Region V, Fort Lewis Field Office, http://www.monterey.army.mil/legal/trial_defense/how_to_uPGrade_your_discharge.pdf

  6. 1808

    M21-1manual rewrite (MR), Part III, Subpart v, Chapter 1, Section B

  7. 1809

    See Beyond “T.B.D.” Understanding VA’s Evaluation of a Former Servicemember’s benefits eligibility following involuntary or punitive discharge from the armed services, 214 Mil. Law Rev. Winter 2012.

  8. 1810

    Unless it’s determined that you were insane at the time you committed the offense, you’re barred from benefits if you were released or discharged for any of the following: sentence of a general court-martial; being a conscientious objector; desertion; resignation by an officer for the good of the service; absence without official leave (AWOL) for a continuous period of 180+ days, without compelling circumstances warranting the unauthorized absence; requesting release from service as an alien during a period of hostilities. 38 U.S.C. § 5303; Claims for VA Benefits & Character of Discharge: General Information ,U.S. Dep’t of Veterans Affairs, http://www.benefits.va.gov/BENEFITS/docs/COD_Factsheet.pdf.

  9. 1811

    See Beyond “T.B.D.” Understanding VA’s Evaluation of a Former Servicemember’s Benefits Eligibility following Involuntary or Punitive Discharge from the Armed Services, 214 Mil. Law Rev. Winter 2012.