Last updated 6/11/2019 at 10:15am | View PDF
Former service members might remember hearing: “Just take the General Discharge; it will automatically be upgraded to Honorable in six months.” Most veterans who tried this found out this was not a true statement. However, there is a way that you can apply for a discharge upgrade.
Each branch of service maintains a discharge review board with the authority to change, correct or modify a discharge or dismissal, if it was not issued as a result of conviction from a general court-martial. However, the review board does not have authority to address discharges due to medical issues.
To apply for the discharge upgrade, the veteran (or if the veteran is deceased or incompetent, the surviving spouse, next of kin, or legal representative) may apply for a review of discharge within 15 years from the date of discharge using a DD Form 293, “Application for the Review of Discharge from the Armed Forces of the United States.” If it is beyond the 15 years, the veteran must petition the branch of military service’s Board for Correction of Military Records, using a DD 149, “Application for Correction of Military Records under the Provisions of Title 10, U.S. Code, Section 1552.” The discharge review is conducted through a review of an applicant’s record and, if requested, through a hearing before the Board located in Washington, D.C. My office can provide to you a Self-Help Guide to Discharge Upgrade.
Discharges awarded due to a continuous period of unauthorized absence in excess of 180 days will render a veteran ineligible for VA benefits, unless the VA determines that there were compelling circumstances surrounding the absence. Should this be the case, the VA will ask for more information from the veteran.
Remember, a veteran with disabilities incurred or aggravated during active duty may qualify for medical treatment or related benefits, regardless of type of separation and characterization of service. Veterans separated administratively under other than honorable conditions may request a discharge review for possible re-characterization, provided they apply within 15 years from the date of separation.
Normally, the separation code on a DD-214 cannot be changed using the discharge review program. The discharge review is only for the actual characterization of the discharge received during service and should not be confused with the separation code, which cannot be changed.
Ken Cruickshank, the Veterans Services Officer for Tulare County, is a retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer. Contact him at the Veterans Services Office at 3348 W. Mineral King Ave., Visalia; by phone at (559) 713-2880; or by email at KCruicks@tularehhsa.org