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How to modify your military discharge status

Someone who serves their country with honor deserves to have their service characterized as such. However, in some cases, a veteran’s discharge process does not end favorably.

Maybe your discharge does not reflect your service, or it leads to a denial of VA benefits. A negative reason for military discharge can make it hard to find a good job. Whatever the reason, veterans have options when it comes to upgrading their status or having the character of their discharge changed.

Who has the authority to change a veteran’s discharge?

If your military discharge was not due to a court-martial, a discharge review board (DRB) has the power to review the reason and authority of the discharge. Generally, these review boards handle cases where someone wishes to:

  • Change the reason for their discharge
  • Upgrade general discharges

Other types of changes go before the Board for Correction of Military Records. Marine and Navy veterans with a courts-martial discharge or who wish to make a change relating to medical discharge or retirement need to take their application to the Board for Correction of Naval Records.

On what grounds can a discharge be changed?

To make a good case for changing your discharge status, you must show that your original discharge was either inequitable or improper.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, strong arguments for changing a discharge often relate to:

  • Mental health issues, such as PTSD
  • Sexual orientation
  • Sexual assault
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)

In general, a petition to change or upgrade your discharge must be filed within 15 years of separating from the military.

There is no need to go it alone

Upgrading your discharge can be quite difficult. However, with the help of an attorney experienced in military matters, you stand a better chance of success. 

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