Have you ever wanted to remove derogatory material from your official military record, request a medal you earned but were never awarded, or ask for a different discharge characterization of service or reenlistment code? If so, there is good news! Each service branch maintains a Board for Correction of Military/Naval Records (BCMR/BCNR) devoted to correcting errors or injustices in a service member’s official military file. Here’s how the boards work:
The BCMRs, established pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 1552, consider applications properly before them for the purpose of determining the existence of an error or an injustice, and to make appropriate recommendations to the Service Secretaries. The BCMRs, unlike the Discharge Review Boards (DRBs) for each service, may review discharges awarded by a general court-martial.
Other types of cases reviewed by the BCMRS include, but are not limited to: requests for physical disability retirement; the cancellation of a physical disability discharge, and substituting, in lieu thereof, retirement for disability; an increase in the percentage of physical disability; the removal of derogatory material from an official military record; the review of nonjudicial punishment; and the restoration of rank, grade, or rating. The BCMRS will also review the case of a service member who is in a Reserve component and who contends that their release from active duty should have been honorable, rather than general (under honorable conditions).
Veterans seeking a discharge upgrade who were separated from the military less than 15 years ago must first apply to the Discharge Review Board for their service branch.
Current and former members of the United States military (including Reserve personnel) may apply to the BCMR for their respective service for a correction of an error or injustice in their official military record. If a former service member is deceased or incompetent, the member’s spouse, widow or widower, next of kin (parent, sibling, or child), or legal representative can apply for the service member.
Applications must be filed with the BCMRs within 3 years of the date of the discovery of the error or injustice. However, the boards are authorized to excuse the fact that the application was filed at a later date, if the finds it to be in the interest of justice to consider the application. The BCMRs may deny an application without a hearing, if it determines that there is insufficient evidence to indicate the existence of probable material error or injustice to the applicant. An application will not be considered by the BCMRs until the applicant has exhausted all other effective administrative remedies afforded by existing law or regulations, and such other legal remedies as the board shall determine are practical and appropriately available to the applicant.
To apply, applicants must submit a completed DD149 form containing the veteran’s personal information, requested correction, justification for the request, and date and time when the alleged error or injustice was discovered, among other information. Applicants may attach as evidence documents in support of their application.
The burden of proof to show either an error or injustice rests with the applicant. Absent evidence to the contrary, the BCMRs will presume presume that the military record was appropriate and in compliance with service regulations. Applicants can request a personal appearance before the Boards, but are not entitled to a hearing.
The BCMRs are comprised of at least three-member panels of civilian employees appointed to by the Service Secretaries. The BCMR of the Coast Guard consists of civilians within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Panels review cases on a first come, first served basis.
The BCMRs collectively process ten of thousands of applications a year. As a result, an applicant should expect to wait as long as 18 months before the board considers their case. This wait can, however, vary between the service branches.
On September 3, 2014, the Secretary of Defense issued a memorandum providing guidance to the BCMRs as it considers petitions brought by veterans claiming Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with other than honorable conditions discharge. This includes a comprehensive review of all materials and evidence provided by the applicant.
This policy was issued to make the application process easier for veterans seeking redress and assists the Boards in reaching fair and consistent results in these cases. The guidance also mandates liberal waivers of time limits, ensures timely consideration of petitions, and allows for increased involvement of medical personnel in Board determinations. Liberal consideration also applies to request by veterans for a discharge upgrade due to mental health conditions (including Traumatic Brain Injury), sexual assault, or sexual harassment.
MJA has successfully represented service members before Boards for Correction of Military Records. Contact us today for your free consultation.