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Can a military appeal end up in federal court?

In previous posts, we've discussed the unique aspects of the military justice system. However, readers should be aware that service members might also seek relief in federal courts, under certain circumstances.

Specifically, a federal court may have the authority to set aside a decision from the Discharge Review Board (DRB) or the Board for Correction of Military Records (BCMR). Before that stage, however, a service member may be required to exhaust his or her administrative remedies. That administrative record will play an important role in the federal court's review, and is an important reminder of the importance of skilled legal representation even during the administrative phase.

My law practice focuses on military law, and I have litigation experience in a variety of federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. That military law experience allows me to better anticipate potential issues that should be preserved for an appeal, even while a case is pending before the DRB or BCMR. My experience also allows me to better assess a service member's chances of a successful appeal. Jurisdiction in federal court may require identifying an appealable error in the lower court's decision.

Finally, following proper court procedures can be vital. For example, each of the military services has a DRB, and appeals can be requested using DOD Form 293. However, a DRB generally cannot hear medical discharges. In addition, discharges more than 15 years old may have to go to the BCMR via DoD Form 149. Check out my firm's website for more information on military appeals and the various options for changing or reversing an adverse decision.

Source: military.com, "Discharge Review Boards"

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