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What evidence is needed to win a discharge upgrade?

Although it may seem counterintuitive, having a discharge upgraded is actually a good thing. The term comes from Section 1553, Title 10 of the United States Code. The law authorizes a board to review the discharge of any former member of the armed forces, with the exception of those resulting from a general court-martial. 

A service member who received an honorable discharge may not need to apply for this type of review. For other types of discharges, however, it may be worth pursuing a discharge upgrade if a service member has evidence demonstrating inequity or impropriety.

Notably, the process for seeking this type of review is straightforward, generally involving a written application and submission of DD Form 293 to the applicable Discharge Review Board. A service member may include his or her own statement, as well as signed statements form witnesses who had direct knowledge or involvement in the incident(s) that led to the discharge. A service member may also contact the National Personnel Records Center for a copy of his or her military records. 

However, the strategy needed to obtain a favorable outcome is anything but simple. By its own admission, the U.S. Army Trial Defense Service cautions that most requests are not approved. The standard of whether a discharge was inequitable or improper may seem highly subjective. That’s where the advocacy of an experienced military lawyer can prove invaluable. An attorney can argue that a service member’s previous good record; achievements, decorations and/or awards should have weighed against any single instance of alleged bad conduct or wrongdoing. If a service member wasn’t given an opportunity for rehabilitation, an attorney might argue that the discharge was procedurally improper.

Source: U.S. Army Trial Defense Service, “What You Should Know About How to Upgrade Your Military Discharge,” copyright 2007, DD214

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