Discharge Upgrades

When a person leaves military service, they receive an official record of their service called a “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty” (commonly referred to as a “DD 214”). This document includes a “discharge classification” such as honorable, under honorable conditions, general, other than honorable, or dishonorable. Discharge classifications are important because the VA denies benefits to former servicemembers whose discharge classifications do not meet VA requirements.

Because some discharges are improperly or unfairly classified, the military allows former servicemembers to apply for a discharge upgrade. Each branch of the military has both a Discharge Review Board and a Board of Correction of Military (or Naval) Records. Former servicemembers can assemble applications and attempt to and convince a review board that their discharge classification meets the legal standard to be considered “inequitable” or “improper” and should be upgraded. This is a complicated process, and an applicant’s chances of success increase significantly if they are assisted by an attorney.

In particular, the clinic would like to encourage former servicemembers who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to service in Vietnam to strongly consider applying for a discharge upgrade. PTSD was not recognized by the military at that time, so many servicemembers suffering from PTSD due to service in Vietnam were discharged with unfairly negative discharge classifications.

The Veterans Legal Clinic is equipped to help servicemembers through the legal process of upgrading their discharge classification to enable them to qualify for the VA benefits they deserve.

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