Facing injustice is one of life’s biggest challenges. But you can right the wrongs.
How does your discharge negatively affect you?
- Unless you have an honorable discharge, you are ineligible for the Post 9-11 GI Bill education benefit.
- Unless you have a discharge under honorable conditions, you are ineligible for VA compensation and a VA pension.
- Unless you have a discharge under honorable conditions you may be disqualified to receive VA medical care.
The military makes mistakes and these mistakes have a huge impact on you and your family. The Department of Defense wants all veterans to know that you have an opportunity to have your discharge and military records reviewed to correct any injustice.
Why? Because the Department of Defense wants to ensure that “all Veterans who have sacrificed so much in service to our great Nation receive all of the benefits” they deserve. Even if you already submitted an application to the Discharge Review Board (DRB) and your discharge was not upgraded, the services will review your case again applying new guidance the Department of Defense issued in 2014 as it relates to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The Department of Defense has stated that “liberal consideration will be given in petitions to changes in characterization of service”…when there is evidence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or related conditions such as Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?
Some real stories of military member whose discharges were upgraded include
- A soldier was discharged with an under other than honorable conditions discharge (UOTHC) for drug abuse. He was found guilty using illegal drugs, being AWOL and violating a lawful general regulation. But there was more to the story. The soldier was deployed to Iraq; he was involved in combat; he was hit by an IED. And, while the soldier was carefree and upbeat prior to his enlistment , after returning from Iraq, his whole demeanor changed. He became wild and unpredictable. After the soldier’s discharge, the VA diagnosed him with PTSD and TBI. Based upon his diagnosis, the DRB found that there was a nexus between the soldier’s diagnosis and his misconduct. This soldier served his country twice in combat and something happened to him. The DRB upgraded his discharge to an honorable discharge and changed the reason for discharge from misconduct to Secretarial Authority.
- A military member was discharged after he reported misconduct committed by a senior soldier. He was a victim of reprisal. The DRB upgraded the member’s UOTHC discharge as they concluded his command acted in an arbitrary and capricious fashion.
- An airman’s command waited eight months to discharge her after her last incident of misconduct. The DRB upgraded this veteran’s discharge as they found the discharge to be arbitrary and capricious–waiting eight months to initiate discharge was unjust.
- A soldier’s Post-Service Conduct was so outstanding, the DRB upgraded his discharge to an honorable discharge even though he had a conviction.
- A military member was discharged for his sexual orientation. The DRB changed his reason for separation to Secretarial Authority.
Each service has a DRB that affords former military members the opportunity to request a review that could change your characterization of service, the reason for discharge, and your re-enlistment code based upon mistakes made by the Service.
In life, injustice occurs. However, you can correct this injustice and set the record straight. And, if this injustice is affecting your ability to obtain education benefits, VA compensation or medical care, you have more of a reason to right the wrong.
I invite those of you who have questions on this important topic to contact me. Spread the word to friends, former colleagues and family. You can now right the wrongs and the Department of Defense is giving you the opportunity to do so.
Ferah Ozbek is a retired USAF Judge Advocate who uses her 25+ years of experience and insight as a former military attorney (retired colonel) to develop the best strategies to represent her clients. As a former Senior Legal Advisor and voting member to the Secretary of the Personnel Council’s Discharge Review Board, she reviewed hundreds of applications by service members and knows what the military looks at when deciding whether your discharge should be upgraded.