Disability benefits for both combat related and service connected injuries and illnesses, which are provided by the Department of Defense (DoD) as well as the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), are a critical building blocks toward a solid foundation upon transition from active duty to civilian life and are crucial in restoring the lives of the men and women who have honorably served this nation and were injured as a result of their service. Yet, for many reasons, each year thousands of active duty service members are being wrongfully and inappropriately administratively separated from the Armed Forces while being stripped of their DOD and VA benefits.
An involuntary administrative discharge (also called administrative separation or Chapter discharge) is a very serious situation in which the military is attempting to terminate the employment of the military member – in other words, the military is trying to kick a service member out of the military. There are three characterizations of administrative discharge:
– General (also called “Under Honorable Conditions”)
– Under Other than Honorable Conditions (“OTH”)
When a service member is facing involuntary administrative discharge, the characterization of the discharge is normally either General or Under Other Than Honorable Conditions. Because an Honorable Discharge is the top characterization of administrative discharge, that is not normally the characterization for an involuntary administrative discharge. A Dismissal, Dishonorable Discharge or Bad Conduct Discharge are not administrative discharges, they can only be adjudged as a part of a court-martial sentence.
The different military branches often refer to involuntary administrative discharge in different terms:
– “Admin Discharge”:
– “Admin Separation”:
– Being “Chaptered” (Army reference to the chapter of administrative separation regulation, AR 635-200, such as Chapter 14 for misconduct)
For military officers, involuntary administrative discharge action can be referred to as:
– “Administrative Discharge”:
– “Administrative Separation”:
– “BOI” or “Board of Inquiry”:
– “Show Cause”:
– “Officer Elimination”:
Depending on the rank or years of service of the military member, and/or the characterization of administrative discharge sought by the military, the military member may be entitled to a formal administrative discharge board hearing. This hearing is a litigated administrative board hearing that looks similar to a trial with fewer evidentiary rules. Evidence is admitted, witnesses are questioned and cross-examined, arguments are made to the administrative board and the board members deliberate and return their recommendation. An involuntary administrative discharge action can have serious, long lasting consequences. Not only does an involuntary administrative discharge end the member’s military career, it can terminate the military benefits and entitlements the service member has been accruing over his/her career, the GI Bill may be lost, it prevents the service member from retiring or processing through the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) (see below) and it can have a lasting stigma and impact on future civilian job searches and educational opportunities (such as seeking college or graduate school admission). Given these possible consequences, experienced and aggressive defense representation is crucial in an involuntary administrative discharge action, hearing, or appeal.
Discharged service members can appeal the discharge, as well as appealing the characterization of the discharge, reason for the discharge, and/or reenlistment eligibility code (RE Code). If a military member is administratively discharged, his/her appeal opportunities include the Discharge Review Board (DRB) for the military service branch and the Board of Corrections for Military Records (BCMR)(or BCNR for Navy/USMC) for the military service branch.
Advocating and defending service members facing involuntary administrative discharge or appealing an administrative discharge is what we at USJAG do. The only type of law we at USJAG handle is military law. USJAG exclusively advocates and defends service members stationed around the world who are facing military trials, discharge/separation, appeals, discipline, and investigations. If you’re facing involuntary administrative discharge or separation, or are appealing a discharge action, don’t hesitate to seek the legal help you’re going to need.
Since our starting days in 2006, USJAG has helped active duty service members from both the Afghanistan (OEF) and Iraq (OIF) conflicts obtain over $500 million in lifetime benefits.
The Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) is a joint DOD/VA process for determining whether a disabled service member is unfit for continued military service, and, if so, the level of military disability benefits the service member should receive upon discharge.
To assess the severity and compensability of disabilities through the IDES, a service member’s case is generally considered by two boards: a medical evaluation board (MEB) and a physical evaluation board (PEB). The PEB evaluates all major illnesses or disabilities and decides whether any of them make the member unfit for continued service, and, if so, which ones cause the member to be “unfit.”
Once the PEB determines which conditions make a member unfit, a disability rating (reflecting the severity of the disability) is assigned to each unfitting condition by a VA rating specialist using the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD).
A combined military disability rating of 30% or more entitles the service member upon discharge to medical retirement benefits, which include lifetime monthly disability retired pay; lifetime military health care for the veteran, spouse, and minor children; access to military commissaries and post exchanges; and other retirement benefits. However, a service member assigned a combined military disability rating of less than 30% receives a lump-sum severance payment and no retirement benefits.
USJAG will at no cost to the service member, assign an investigator and advocate as well as if need be a trained attorney to represent the service member throughout the entire IDES process. This team will obtain and review all relevant service records, medical records, and examinations and, if necessary, draft MEB rebuttals, PEB rebuttals, and written requests to the VA for ratings’ re-considerations, as well as, advocate with the service member’s health care provider team for proper and appropriate medical care and diagnostics.