Notice to appear before a separation board or a board of inquiry is an unhappy event for anyone in the military. A hearing generally results from an accusation of non-performance of contractual duties or misconduct of some kind. A board of inquiry (BOI) or separation board (SB) can also result as a follow up procedure to a court-martial conviction that did not result in discharge.
Whatever the cause, a separation hearing can result in your discharge from military service, even an other than honorable (OTH) discharge, which could result in loss of military pension and other benefits, as well as a stain on your reputation. It Is critical to mount a strong defense in a separation hearing.
Separation hearings, generally
In general, SBs and BOIs are very similar, the primary difference is that SBs are for enlisted servicemembers and BOIs are for commissioned officers.
The Department of Defense has outlined procedures for both separation boards and boards of inquiry. These can be complex proceedings requiring in-depth legal knowledge. Work with a lawyer experienced with separation hearings to give yourself the best chance possible.
Enlisted members can face a separation board for failure to perform their duties adequately, for drug or alcohol abuse, or for other types of misconduct. In some circumstances, enlisted servicemembers can choose a separation hearing in lieu of a court-martial.
Before initiating separation processing, you must have received some counseling as to your inadequate performance or misconduct and you must have received counseling or rehabilitation and the opportunity to overcome the deficiencies. If this has not happened in a formal way, you have legal grounds to dispute the separation proceedings.
The process has many procedural similarities to civilian court cases. It begins with notice to which you will have to respond. In the actual hearing, you will have the right to legal counsel, there will be witnesses and evidence will be presented. The hearing will be decided upon by a board of at least three experienced officers.
Assuming you are not facing entry-level discharge, discharge due to fraudulent enlistment or something of that nature, a discharge in these cases can be honorable, general (under honorable conditions) or other than honorable (OTH).
Boards of inquiry
In most respects, BOIs have the same general rules and procedures as SBs, except BOIs are reserved for commissioned officers.
In these proceedings, you have the right to legal counsel of your choice, the right of access to all the records relevant to your case, the right to request the appearance of witnesses, the right to testify on your own behalf and other important rights.
Protect your future
Most likely, you would prefer to avoid being discharged from your service. If you’ve received notice of a separation hearing, the situation is already serious. You need to do everything possible to protect your future and your reputation. Although the situation is serious, with good representation there is still a good chance to avoid discharge.