Corrections to Military Records from the BCMR or DRB

Corrections to Military Records from the BCMR or DRB

Some Historical Background

While countless individual veterans and veterans advocates have been dealing with the consequences of separations from military service under less than honorable conditions for decades, a variety of efforts over the course of the last decade have raised the issue to new levels of public and systemic recognition. As evidenced by various references on this web-site, improper separations from military service form the bedrock of the efforts of the Uniformed Services Justice & Advocacy Group’s (USJAG) in the realms of both advocacy and service delivery.

The Yale Law Journal, in March, 2014, published an article entitled, In Need of Correction: How the Army Board for Correction of Military Records Is Failing Veterans with PTSD”.  The article called attention to the more than 260,000 Vietnam veterans who had received “Bad Paper” discharges, noting that many suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and further noting that their combat experience provided a causal link to their separation from service under less than honorable conditions. Again, this is not a new phenomenon: Hundreds of thousands of WWI veterans were similarly separated from military service. Over one million Army personnel were admitted for neuropsychiatric disorders and tens of thousands were separated under less than honorable conditions.  Throughout the various conflicts during the course of the Global War on Terror (GWOT), these practices have continued, impacting hundreds of thousands of soldiers.

In September, 2014 Secretary of Defense Hagel issued a Memorandum to the Military Boards of Correction for Military Records (BMCRs) directing them take PTSD into consideration for purposes of upgrading for discharges under less than honorable conditions.  One year later in September 2015, Yale Law’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic prepared Unfinished Business, Correcting ‘Bad Paper’ for Veterans with PTSD”  for the Vietnam Veterans of America and the National Veterans Council for Legal Redress. This paper exhorted veterans who had received Bad Paper discharges and who could provide evidence supporting a causal link between their military separations and service-related PTSD to apply to the BMCRs for discharge upgrades. The article went on to note that while rates of approval for Bap Paper discharges from the Army had increased, comparatively few veterans had come forward with actions to upgrade their discharges. The article further noted non-compliance with data provision from the other Branches of Service. The low numbers coming forward were attributed to the lack of effort on the part of the Department of Defense to inform veterans of their right to petition for upgrades.

Boards for Correction of Military Records (BCMRs)

The Boards for Correction of Military Records (BCMRs) are set up for each Branch of Service to review applications for upgrades to discharges under less than honorable conditions. As noted in the 2014 Memorandum from Secretary of Defense Hagel, the petitioner for such upgrades to the character of service should set forth the following;

  • Evidence which documents the presence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) linked to military service and which can be liberally construed to have existed at time of separation.
  • Mitigating evidence or factors demonstrative of the presence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the individual veteran’s service record or subsequent medical records, post separation.

If veterans have evidence supportive of the above in the form of diagnostic records demonstrating service-connected Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from qualified Medical Professionals and a nexus between such diagnosis and separation from military service can be supported by service and subsequent civilian records they should come forward and petition the appropriate BCMR for upgrades to their discharges.

Depending on circumstances, the Uniformed Services Justice & Advocacy Group (USJAG) may be able to assist veterans with referrals and some limited guidance on the procedural steps that need to be undertaken with the respective BCMR processes.