Within 15 years of the date of discharge, former military members can petition to have the characterization of service, narrative reason for separation, and RE codes upgraded or changed. Applicants are required to submit a DD Form 293 along with supporting evidence. Petitions outside that time window should be directed to the Board for the Correction of Records of the respective branch of service. Servicemembers and former servicemembers can seek such upgrades or changes on their own, or with the assistance of legal counsel.
Correction of Records
Each service branch has its own administrative review board for military members and veterans in need of amending their records to correct an error or remove an injustice. The Air Force, Army, and Coast Guard have their own service Board for the Correction of Military Records. The Board for the Correction of Naval Records is the proper agency for a petition from a servicemember who is serving, or has served, in the Marine Corps or Navy. These boards for correction function as the highest level of administrative review in their respective services and applicants are required to exhaust all other avenues of relief before applying, otherwise a petition can be denied solely on that basis.
Applicants must submit a completed DD Form 149 (with supporting evidence) for consideration. There are rules governing the proper format and content of petitions. Petitioners should carefully study the instructions by the board, or rely upon the sound guidance of an attorney experienced in submitting these petitions, to ensure that a petition is not rejected for failure to follow instructions.
Common types of matters the Boards for Correction can address:
- Discharge characterizations, usually after a (former) servicemember seeks redress through the Service's Discharge Review Board
- RE and discharge code changes
- Change the Narrative Reason for Separation
- Reinstate applicant into service
- Enter applicant into Disability Evaluation System for medical separation/retirement
- Change of name or gender
- Replacement of awards and medals
- Remove performance evaluation reports
- Any other injustice during military service that be addressed by a correction to that (former) servicemember's records
What is the time limit for a correction request?
Correction requests must be made within three years after claimant discovers the error or injustice. Requests made outside that time window can be considered untimely and denied on that basis alone, although the boards are also able to grant relief outside that time window if they find it to be in the interest of justice.
Criteria and Burden of Proof
There is a presumption of regularity that governs military records, meaning that whatever is currently in the record is presumed to be accurate. Therefore, the burden of proof falls on the petitioner. The petitioner must prove that it is in the interest of justice to correct a record. It is important to note that these boards will decide cases based on the evidence provided in the servicemember's record and that evidence attached to the petition. These boards are not investigative bodies and will not contact witnesses or seek out evidence on the applicant's behalf. Therefore, it is wise to engage the services of an experienced attorney who can assist an applicant in submitting the strongest possible case.