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How to Upgrade a Less Than Honorable Discharge

One question we here fairly often is what kind of benefits does a Veteran have if they didn’t get an Honorable Discharge. Less than Honorable can result in less options for VA Benefits and a dishonorable discharge will mean very very few VA Benefits that the Veteran will be eligible to receive. However, there are reasons for dishonorable discharges to be upgraded. The military services have been directed over the past few years to re-visit dishonorable discharges to determine if they should be upgraded.

That being said, if you are a Veteran who received less than an honorable discharge and honestly believe you deserved better, there are ways to request an upgrade. Here are the key things to know about requesting an upgrade to a military discharge:

1. Discharge Review Board – Each military branch has a Discharge Review Board that is authorized to change the reason for discharge and upgrade the characterization of service. For example – upgrading a “General” discharge to an “Honorable” discharge.

2. Apply Within 15 Years – You must apply to the Discharge Review Board within 15 years of the date of separation from active duty. Exceptions can be made if you can show injustice or other cogent reasons.

3. Evidence for Upgrade – You must submit documents, evidence, and written arguments making your case for why your discharge status should be upgraded. Common reasons are proving injustice, inequity, error applying regulations, or significant post-service facts that support an upgrade. 

4. Hearing Not Guaranteed   – The board will review your written application but does not guarantee an in-person hearing will be granted. They make a decision based on the evidence submitted.

5. Appeal Board Decisions – If denied, you can appeal the Review Board’s decision to the Board of Correction for Military Records within a few years. New evidence can be submitted during this separate appeal process as well.

Getting discharge upgrades reversed is very challenging but possible in some cases. Consulting with military legal counsel helps maximize success. Remember that records, facts, and persistence are key.

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