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Military Times: Fix your military records: Give yourself the future you have earned

Military Times: Fix Your Military Records: Give Yourself The Future You Have Earned

Serving in the military is a sacrifice. When your service is complete, you want your record of service to be accurate and helpful. If you are a veteran who was discharged for misconduct, you may find yourself missing out on veteran benefits and being rejected by potential employers. This commentary will give you an overview of the ways you can change your record. Changes to incorrect information can be made, and even accurate information can be changed under certain circumstances. The process can be complex and time consuming, so being knowledgeable about the process will improve your chances for success.

Every branch of the military has a discharge review board (DRB) and a board for correction of military records (BCMR). If you are struggling after your discharge because of negative information in your record, there may be a way to have that information corrected or removed. If you were discharged with a less than honorable discharge, there is a process to have your discharge upgraded.

One huge misconception is the “Dishonorable Discharge.” If you were not discharged by a court, you do not have a dishonorable discharge. Non-court discharges are called administrative discharges. In an administrative discharge, there are three characterization options: Honorable; General (Under Honorable Conditions); and Other than Honorable (OTH). To be clear, even though an OTH is a less than honorable discharge, it is not as bad as a dishonorable discharge.

Even the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website uses confusing terminology. The characterization generally required to receive VA benefits is described as, “under other than dishonorable conditions” meaning that even an OTH discharge may be eligible for some VA benefits.

If you are not sure what type of discharge you have, you may want to request a copy of your military records. Everyone who has served in the military has an Official Military Personnel File (OMPF). Your OMPF should include nearly everything that happened to you while you were in the military. It is an administrative record of your service history, including your duty stations, duty assignments, schools attended, training qualifications, evaluation reports, and awards and decorations. Your OMPF may include documentation of any misconduct, nonjudicial punishment, reprimands, or court-martial proceedings. There will also be a copy of your DD-214 that includes your separation information. It includes the reason you were separated, your characterization of service, and your reenlistment eligibility code. You can request your records by submitting a SF-180 to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC).

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