Military Advantage

VA Launches New Tool to Make Upgrading Your Discharge Easier

DD214

If you received a less than perfect discharge from the military and are confused about how to get it changed the VA and DOD have a new program that may help you.

The VA's VETS.GOV has launched a new online tool in partnership with the DOD to make filing for a discharge upgrade a lot easier.

While your type of discharge rarely matters to civilian employers, your eligibility to both state and federal veterans benefits greatly depends on it.

Recently, all military branches have made it easier to apply for a discharge upgrade in cases of:

  • Mental health conditions, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Sexual assault or harassment during military service
  • Sexual orientation (including under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy)

While you must still apply to your service's Discharge Review Board for consideration of a discharge upgrade, the new tool gives you instructions on how best to get a favorable decision from that board.

By answering a few questions online you can get personalized instructions on how to complete the DD Form 149, and recommendations on what supporting documentation you should submit. You are also told the address where you should send the form and an estimated timeline when you can expect a decision on your case.

Supporting Documentation Is The Most Important Thing

The new online tool suggests including supporting documentation with your upgrade request. While you may not think will help your appeal, the VA & DOD say it will help a lot.

For example, the online tool recommends including statements from people you knew on active duty. These statements don't have to be from a superior officer. In fact the content of the statement is more important than who it comes from, as long as the writer's opinion is credible and they knew you well.

Another thing that may influence the board's decision is your life after leaving the military. Statements about how you turned your life around can greatly influence their decision, particularly if your discharge involved any issues related to drugs, alcohol, or bad behavior. This can be in the form of a letter from an employer or community leader, evidence of successful drug treatment, or copies of certificates and degrees. 

Many Veterans Eligible For Discharge Upgrades

According to the DOD tens of thousands of veterans with less than honorable discharges are likely to be deserving of upgrades. Fragmented and confusing information on how to apply for an upgraded discharge has historically kept them from applying for upgraded discharges.

“This new tool and partnership with DOD is one of many VA initiatives offered to Veterans who believe they may have been unfairly discharged or received an unfair discharge characterization,” said VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin. “Veterans who believe their discharge was unjust, erroneous or warrants an upgrade are encouraged to use the tool and then apply for review.”

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