Unfairly Discharged from the Military? New Review Board Offers One Last Chance at Appeal


Recently separated service members who believe they were unjustly or erroneously discharged or dismissed from the military, or want to upgrade how their discharge was characterized, now have one new last chance at appeal.

The Pentagon on Wednesday announced it has created a new route for service members who separated on or after Dec. 20, 2019, to appeal their separation.

The new Discharge Appeal Review Board will allow those service members a final review of their requests to upgrade their discharge or dismissal characterization after they have exhausted all other available administrative options, the Defense Department’s release said. Congress ordered the board created in the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

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Once a service member has exhausted all appeals with the appropriate service Discharge Review Board and Board of Correction of Military or Naval Records, they now can apply to the new appeal board for a final review.

These boards of appeal also make corrections to a veteran's discharge, such as fixing dates or misspellings on the DD-214 or adding missing decorations or campaign medals to a veteran’s record.

But the new board will take a very tightly defined look at each case. It will review only records from the service Board of Correction of Military/Naval Records’ case file, the release said, and will not see people personally. Anyone who wants to present new evidence first has to ask their Board of Correction to reconsider that evidence before it can be considered by the new appeal board.

It's not yet clear who will sit on the board, how many members it will have or how many cases it's likely to review.

If the appeals board recommends that service member’s discharge or dismissal characterization be upgraded, it then will be sent to the secretary of the relevant military department for a final decision, the release said. It is the final level of review anyone can seek.

If the former service member has died or is incapacitated, that person’s surviving spouse, next of kin or legal representative can apply on their behalf, the release said.

Veterans who receive a discharge from the military that is characterized as anything other than "honorable" may be ineligible for state and federal benefits, including health care, education, property tax exclusions, employment preferences and even burial benefits.

As society has changed throughout the years, many actions that were once a guarantee of a dishonorable discharge now are often not applicable reasons for involuntary termination from military service. Therefore, veterans who appeal a less-than-honorable discharge often are successful in having it upgraded. The formation of a new board of appeals for discharges was designed to ensure all previous decisions on appeals were made according to the law and DoD policy.

The Air Force has been put in charge of the appeal review board process, the Pentagon said. Anyone who believes there's a problem with their discharge or dismissal, as of Dec. 20, 2019, is encouraged to apply for review, the Pentagon said. They can find more information at the Air Force Review Board Agency Portal here.

-- Stephen Losey can be reached at stephen.losey@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StephenLosey.

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