At the end of a Veteran’s military career, the discharge authority assigns a characterization of the Veteran’s overall performance while in service. Veterans receive other than honorable discharges for a myriad of reasons, including conduct related to post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries, sexual trauma, and other mental/physical conditions brought on or aggravated by military service. A negative discharge impacts a Veteran’s access to healthcare, benefits, and employment.

A discharge upgrade application will never result in a lower characterization than originally awarded. However, if the Veteran has an OTH or below, the Board may upgrade to a characterization lower than Honorable but still higher than the original characterization. The chart below displays the benefits associated with the different types of discharges.

*CoD: VA Character of Discharge Determination

Step #1 Identify the Applicable Board

Each military branch has two designated discharge upgrade authorities: (1) Discharge Review Board and (2) Boards for Correction of Military Records. Additionally, Veterans who have exhausted their appeals at the branch specific board may apply for review at the Department of Defense Discharge Appeal Review Board. Although the legal standards and arguments are applicable across the military branches, the formats and administrative requirements are different. Below you can find a Board decision tree along with the applicable board website. Board websites provide guidance of the latest submission methods and applicable authorities.

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