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Millions of people have served in the U.S. military, most of them with honor and distinction. Unfortunately, some military members end up leaving the service with discharges that are of a less than honorable character. Bad conduct discharges from military service, or BCDs, for example, typically result when military members are convicted at either special or general courts martial. However, there's an upgrade process available to former military servicemembers who'd like to have their BCDs changed to discharges of a more favorable character.
U.S. Military Discharges
When you leave military service you're usually discharged, and the military issues several types of discharges. The majority of former military servicemembers receive honorable discharges, while some receive general discharges under honorable conditions. A lesser number receive an other-than-honorable discharge, which is a serious form of administrative discharge. Even smaller numbers of military servicemembers receive punitive discharges such as bad conduct or dishonorable discharges. Punitive military discharges usually result in the loss of most or all veterans' benefits.
DD Form 293
Bad conduct discharges are only given to military members as a result of special or general courts martial. If you want to have your BCD upgraded, it's important that you thoroughly document and support your request. If your military service was less than 15 years ago, download DD Form 293, "Application for the Review of Discharge from the Armed Forces of the United States" to request discharge upgrades. DD 293s are four-page documents whose instructions tell you exactly what to do when requesting discharge upgrades.
BCD Upgrade Requests
The U.S. Army's Presidio of Monterey website contains an explanation of the DD 293 and tips for successfully requesting Army discharge upgrades. Regardless of your particular military branch, it's smart to retain an experienced attorney when requesting a discharge upgrade. Also, it can take several months for your military service branch's records review board to decide on your BCD upgrade request. You can also elect to appear before the military records review board in Washington, D.C., to explain your BCD upgrade request.
Submitting DD 293s
Submit your DD 293 to your former military service branch's own records review board. The Department of Defense site maintains a webpage with complete addresses and websites of each service branch's records correction board. For military service occurring more than 15 years ago, discharge upgrade requests are only handled through a formal correction of military records. To request correction of your military records, use a DD Form 149 instead of a DD 293 and follow its instructions to the letter.
Winning a Discharge Upgrade
As the Army's Presidio website notes, most requests for discharge upgrades aren't approved. However, if you can convince the military records review board that your BCD was given for inequitable or improper reasons, your upgrade request may be approved. An inequitable military discharge is one that isn't consistent with the policies and traditions of your former military service branch; it was unfair, in other words. An improper military discharge is one that was based on evidence that shouldn't have been allowed at discharge proceedings.
Tony Guerra served more than 20 years in the U.S. Navy. He also spent seven years as an airline operations manager. Guerra is a former realtor, real-estate salesperson, associate broker and real-estate education instructor. He holds a master's degree in management and a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies.