Discharge Upgrades for Military Prisoners

Prepare for a military discharge upgrade request by gathering the records you need, while in prison.

If you have been convicted by a court-martial and are serving time in a military prison, you are still technically in the military. This means you can't apply for a discharge upgrade until after you have been given your DD-214 discharge papers and leave prison. But there are steps you can take while you are still in prison to help you get a discharge upgrade later on. Collect as many records as you can as long as your prison permits it.

You will want to get a copy of your court-martial transcript, records of investigations the military conducted against you, and other military records.

Get Your Court-Martial Transcript

Your court-martial transcript will be very important to have when you request your discharge upgrade. A complete, word-for-word transcript will be available if you had a General or Special Court-Martial. You are entitled to receive one transcript for free, so if you are allowed to get it, keep it safe. Otherwise you will have to pay for another copy, and wait perhaps months to receive it.

Use the address below or your branch to request the transcript. Provide the following information:

  • your full name and Social Security number
  • the type of court-martial you had, where, and on what date, and
  • the type of discharge you received.

1500 West Perimeter Rd., Suite 1130
Joint Base Andrews, MD 20762
Phone: (240) 612-4834

Office of the Clerk of Court
U. S. Army Judiciary
901 North Stuart St., Suite 1200
Arlington, VA 22203-1837

Phone: (703) 588-7920

FOIA/PA Branch
Criminal Law Division (Code 20)
Office of the Judge Advocate General
1254 Charles Morris St., SE, Suite 801
Washington Navy Yard
Washington, DC 20374-5047
Phone: (202) 685-7068

Coast Guard Headquarters (CGHQ)
2100 Second St., SW
Washington, DC 20593

ATTN: CG-0946
Phone:: (202) 372-3726

Collect Military Investigation Records

It will be important to obtain complete copies of the military investigation that supported your court-martial. Even if you have a copy, request another one, because you never know if the one you have is completed.

To request your military investigation records, send an original request letter to your military branch (using contact information below) and send a copy to the Defense Security Service. Provide as much detail as you can to help the investigative branch locate your records:

  • your full name and Social Security number
  • why you were being investigated
  • when you were being investigated
  • what unit were you in, and
  • who was your command.

The more details you provide about the investigation, the more likely it is that you will be able to obtain the records.

Defense Security Service (DSS)
Office of FOIA and Privacy
27130 Telegraph Road
Quantico, VA 22134
Phone: (571) 305-6740

Air Force Office of Special Investigations
FOIA/PA Branch
P. O. Box 2218
Waldorf, MD 20604-2218
E-mail: [email protected]
FAX: (301) 870-1116

Department of the Army
US Army FOIA and Privacy Office
7701 Telegraph Road, Suite 144
Alexandria, VA 22315-3905

E-mail: [email protected]
Phone: (703) 428-6508
Fax: (703) 428-6522

Naval Criminal Investigative Service
27130 Telegraph Road
Quantico, VA 22134-2253


Commandant CG-611
2100 Second St., SW, STOP 7101
Washington, DC 20593

ATTN: FOIA Officer
Phone: (202) 372-2702
(call first to see if your request has to be notarized)

Collect Other Records From Your Military Service

Records of your medical treatment while in service as well as your military personnel file will be needed later not just for a discharge upgrade request but also to obtain VA benefits. Read Nolo's article about how to obtain these records and another article about steps you can take to protect your rights before leaving the military.

Request Records Under FOIA

The best way to request your court-martial transcripts or records of military investigations (as well as other records) is by using a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. If you specify that you are making a FOIA request for the records, the military is required to respond to your request within 20 days. This doesn't necessarily mean they will provide the records that quickly, but they will have to acknowledge that they received your request and will be complying with it.

Learn more about how to file a FOIA request. Make sure to keep a copy for yourself of all the requests you submit.

Ask Your JAG Attorney for a Letter of Support

Think about writing a letter to the JAG attorney who represented you in the court-martial and asking him or her to write a letter for you in support of the request you will later submit for your discharge upgrade. If the attorney thinks the outcome of your court-martial wasn't fair, he or she may be supportive.

You will need to find out the current address for your attorney. Use the contact information below to find it. However, these offices will have trouble assisting you unless you are able to tell them your attorney's first and last name, their rank, and the last place that you know of where they were on duty.

Phone (210) 565-2660

Office of the Judge Advocate General
1777 North Kent Street
Rosslyn, VA 22209-2194

Office of the Judge Advocate General
1322 Patterson Avenue, Suite 3000
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5066
Website: www.jag.navy.mil/contact.htm

Judge Advocate General
Commandant CG-094
U. S. Coast Guard Headquarters
2100 Second Street, SW, STOP 7121
Washington, DC 20593-7121
Website: www.uscg.mil/legal
Phone: (202) 372-3726

Getting a Discharge Upgrade

When you are released from military prison, with bad paper, you can try to get your discharge upgraded or get the reasons for your discharge changed. See Nolo's article on getting a discharge upgrade.

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