Military Defender

More Than 20 Years Of Active Duty Military Service

Photo of Attorney Phillip E. Stackhouse
In Southern California And Worldwide
department of the army USA
department of navy
department of airforce
united states coast guard
department of navy USA

Review board hearings are now often done remotely

On Behalf of | Mar 31, 2023 | Military Law |

The pandemic has changed how businesses, organizations and government agencies conduct business. It even impacts service review boards. In pre-pandemic times, service members fighting for a service discharge upgrade often traveled to Washington, DC, even if they were not living or working there. There was occasional video conferencing, but this was the exception and not the rule.

The backlog grew

During the early days of the pandemic, the military courts were mainly put on hold, particularly when it involved something that did not require immediate attention. This delay created a backlog, and the military joined countless others working from home and embraced audio and video teleconferencing.

Remote hearings are here to stay

COVID is mostly behind us, and service personnel are no longer required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 since Secretary Austin rescinded the 2021 order on January 10, 2023, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023. Still, video conference seems to be here to stay.

Advocates believe there are many benefits to using this format:

  • There are few, if any, travel expenses.
  • Smaller legal bills since attorneys could telecommute.
  • No dealing with government buildings, the large metro area and finding the right location for the hearing.

Some complain that this approach does not allow attorneys and clients to fight their cases face-to-face with those who make the decisions. Despite everyone getting better at using technology (and more patient with glitches and lags), it can be hard to make their arguments and read the reaction of board members. Nevertheless, the good outweighs the bad.

A different kind of prep

Face-to-face hearings had specific written and unwritten rules of conduct. The general rules remain in place, but some tips and tricks should be familiar to anyone using teleconference technology in a professional setting:

  • Service personnel should look their best and dress appropriately (including long pants if the meeting requires people to stand up to be sworn in).
  • The camera angle should not be from below, and the background should not be distracting.
  • The room should be quiet and appropriately lit.
  • Testing connections and gear before the hearing is also essential to ensure everything works properly.
  • Speak slowly and carefully.
  • Be patient if there are glitches.
  • Your attorney may have additional specific feedback.

Hearings can last a while, but there is no replacing a solid first impression and following through to the hearing’s conclusion. Regardless of the outcome, clients will know they put their best foot forward and left nothing within their control to chance.