You may want to request a correction in your military record or a change in the character of your military discharge. While the Discharge Review Boards (DRBs) for each branch of the military can upgrade some discharges, the Boards of Correction for Military Records (BCMRs) can make other types of corrections as well as change your character or reason for a discharge.
In this article, we'll describe what actions you can request a BCMR to take on your behalf and how the request process works. Be warned, however: It is possible, but very difficult, to get a correction to your military records. Assistance from an attorney is advisable.
What Can a Board of Corrections for Military Records (BCMR) do?
BCMRs have authority to:
- change your discharge to or from military retirement or medical discharge
- upgrade a general courts-martial discharge
- change reenlistment codes
- make other changes to military records
- review a Discharge Review Board decision, and
- reinstate a veteran into the military (this is hardly ever done).
Basically, BCMRs can do anything to alter your records except overturn a general courts-martial conviction.
When Can I Use a Discharge Review Board (DRB) Instead?
If you have an other than honorable, general, or special court-martial bad conduct discharge, you can apply directly to a Discharge Review Board (DRB) or directly to a Board of Correction for Military Records (BCMR). To get two shots at getting your status upgraded, you can start at the Discharge Review Board. Then, if you do not like the DRB decision, you can still appeal it to the BCMR.
If, however, it has been longer than fifteen years since you were discharged, under no circumstances will your Discharge Review Board hear your case. In that situation, you have to apply to your BCMR to get your military records changed.
How to Apply to Your BCMR
Use DD Form 149 to apply to the Board of Correction for Military Records of your branch of the military. All branches use the same application form.
Applications Procedures For Your Branch
Although all branches use DD Form 149 as the application form, each branch of the military has its own BCMR and its own procedures.
Read about application procedures at the applicable BCMR before you apply:
- Army: The Army Board for Correction of Military Records
- Air Force: Air Force Board of Correction of Military Records
- Coast Guard: Board for Correction of Military Records of the Coast Guard
- Navy and Marines: Board of Correction for Naval Records.
Where to Send Your Completed Application
Send your application, and all supporting documentation, to the BCMR for your branch of the service.
Army Review Boards Agency
251 18th Street South, Suite 385
Arlington, VA 22202-3531
Navy and Marine Corps.
Board for Correction of Naval Records
701 S. Courthouse Road, Suite 1001
Arlington, VA 22204-2490
Board for Correction of Air Force Records SAF/MRBR
550-C Street West, Suite 40
Randolph AFB, TX 78150-4742
Department of Homeland Security
Office of the General Counsel
Board for Correction of Military Records
245 Murray Lane, Stop 0485
Washington, DC 20528-0485
Tell the BCMR the details of your military service and your VA medical care, including dates, and the board will retrieve these records for your case.
There is also documentation you'll need to submit yourself. To get your military records corrected, you must establish that your records contain an “error” or “injustice.” Be specific, state exactly what the "error" or "injustice" is in your records, and say exactly what you want your records to be changed to say.
If you can get statements from people who served with you about why they agree there is an error or injustice, this will be very helpful. Having a veterans attorney write legal arguments about why there has been an “error” or “injustice” can also be invaluable.
Other evidence showing you have had good conduct since discharge can sway the board in your favor. For example, evidence of a stellar employment history, getting an education and "bettering" yourself, or being active in your church or volunteer work can be persuasive to the board. If you had bad conduct and/or an arrest in service, showing a clean criminal record post-discharge will help.
A Word of Caution
Please bear in mind that any information you provide to the BCMR automatically becomes part of your permanent military record. This is another reason it’s helpful to have an attorney. Otherwise you may inadvertently say something that that will hurt your chances of getting your records corrected.
Statute of Limitations
According to the letter of the law, BCMRs will not correct any military records more than three years after the incorrect information is discovered. However, the boards frequently agree to hear cases filed later than three years after discharge if it will "serve justice" to do so. Showing that your case has merit is often enough to satisfy a board that hearing your case will “serve justice.”
Will I Get a Hearing?
You can request a hearing when you submit your application, but be aware that it is unusual for BCMRs to grant personal hearings. If you are given a hearing, it will typically be held in Washington D.C. and you will not be reimbursed for any of your travel expenses.
Can I Appeal?
If your request for a correction of your records is denied, you can request that your board reconsider it's decision. You can do this only once, and if you are not successful, your next course of action would have to be to file a lawsuit in federal court. In either case, you should hire an attorney to handle the appeal. Use our attorney databaseto locate a veterans disability attorney.