If you think your military record contains inaccuracies, errors, or injustices, you can ask the Department of Defense to make a correction. Depending on the kind of correction you're requesting, you'll need to go through either your branch's Discharge Review Board (DRB) or Board of Correction for Military Records (BCMR).
While DRBs have the authority to upgrade certain kinds of military discharges, BCMRs can make other types of corrections as well as change your character or reason for a discharge.
BCMRs generally have more authority to correct your military records than DRBs do. Your Board of Correction for Military Records has the authority to:
Basically, BCMRs can do anything to alter your records except overturn a general courts-martial conviction.
In order to request a record correction from the BCMR, you'll need to submit DD Form 149, Application for Correction of Military Record, to your specific branch of the military.
Although all branches use DD Form 149 to request a military record correction, each branch has its own BCMR and its own procedures. The VA offers a user-friendly online search tool that can help you find the appropriate board for requesting a discharge upgrade or records correction. You can also use the website to submit your application online.
You can also send your application and all supporting documentation by mail to the BCMR for your branch of military service; the addresses follow.
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
Air Force Review Boards Agency
3351 Celmers Lane
Joint Base Andrews, MD 20762-6435
Department of Homeland Security
Office of the General Counsel
Board for Correction of Military Records, Stop 0485
2707 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. S.E.
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. But you'll need to submit other documents, such as supportive third-party statements, yourself.
In order to get your military records corrected, you must establish that your records contain an "error" or "injustice." Be specific in your application—state exactly what the "error" or "injustice" is in your records and what you want your records to be changed to say.
It's helpful if you can get statements from people who served with you about why they agree there is an error or injustice. Having a veterans attorney write legal arguments about why there has been an error or injustice can also be worthwhile. And because any information you provide to the BCMR automatically becomes part of your military record, your attorney can also help you avoid saying something that will hurt your chances of getting your records corrected.
Other evidence showing you've had good conduct since your 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 like an arrest while in service, showing a clean criminal record post-discharge will help.
BCMRs aren't allowed to make corrections to military records if you discovered the incorrect information more than three years ago. But BCMRs frequently agree to hear cases filed after three years have passed if it will "serve justice" to do so.
You can request a hearing when you submit your application, but it's unusual for BCMRs to grant the request. If you're given a hearing, it will typically be held in Washington D.C. and you won't be reimbursed for any of your travel expenses.
If your request for a correction of your records is denied, you can ask your BCMR to reconsider the decision. You can do this only once, and if you aren't successful, you'll need to file a lawsuit in federal court.
If you want a discharge upgrade and your date of separation from service was less than 15 years ago, you should use the DRB of your military branch instead of the BCMR. If you don't like the decision of the DRB, you can still appeal it to the BCMR.
If it's been longer than 15 years since your discharge date, you can't ask the DRB to hear your case, and you must apply to your BCMR to get your military records changed.
For more information, read our article on how to get a military discharge upgrade.
Updated June 16, 2023