*NEW* Discharge Upgrades and Sexual Assault
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On September 3, 2014, the Secretary of Defense issued a memorandum providing guidance to the Military Department Boards for Correction of Military/Naval Records (BCM/NR) as they carefully consider each and every petition brought regarding under other than honorable conditions discharge upgrade requests by veterans claiming Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This includes a comprehensive review of all materials and evidence provided by the applicant.

This policy guidance is intended to ease the application process for veterans who are seeking redress and assist the Boards in reaching fair and consistent results in these cases. The guidance also mandates liberal waivers of time limits, ensures timely consideration of petitions, and allows for increased involvement of medical personnel in Board determinations.

This guidance provides that liberal consideration will be given by Military Department Boards for Correction of Military/Naval Records (BCM/NR) in petitions for changes in characterization of service. The supplemental guidance outlines specifically what type of records and evidence will be given special and liberal consideration by the boards. To read the memorandum and supplemental guidance, please click here.

The ABCMR will also apply this liberal consideration guidance when reviewing applications from Soldiers or Former Soldiers who state they were a victim of Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment during service and that trauma contributed to the behaviors that resulted in their separation.

Who does this guidance apply to?

This guidance applies to veterans whose characterization of discharge was under other than honorable conditions and who assert that they suffered PTSD and/or sexual assault or sexual harassment trauma that they believe mitigated the misconduct that led to the discharge. The memorandum focuses on those veterans who served before PTSD was a recognized diagnosis; however, the guidance will be applied to all veterans.

What will be considered?

The ABCMR recognizes that there will not always be a report of a sexual assault or sexual harassment. While a CID report will be requested, because there is not such a report, doesn’t mean that such an event did not occur. Applicants should provide any evidence of an in-service report if they have it.

Exposure to any trauma can potentially result in PTSD or another mental health disorder. PTSD is the most common mental health diagnosis related to experiencing Military Sexual Trauma (MST). Applicants should provide any post-service documents that show any evidence of PTSD due to MST or other conditions resulting from an assault.

Again, the ABCMR recognizes that events involving sexual trauma are not always officially reported. In those cases, in addition to those documents listed above, applicants are encouraged to provide documents recognized by the Veteran’s Administration as “markers” (i.e. signs, events, or circumstances) that provide some indication that a traumatic event happened. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Records from law enforcement authorities, rape crisis centers, mental health counseling centers, hospitals or physicians
  • Pregnancy tests or tests for sexually transmitted diseases
  • Statements from family members, roommates, fellow Service members, clergy members, or counselors
  • Requests for transfer to another military duty assignment
  • Deterioration in work performance
  • Substance abuse
  • Episodes of depression, panic attacks, or anxiety without identifiable cause
  • Unexplained economic or social behavioral changes
  • Relationship issues, such as divorce
  • Sexual dysfunction

How do I apply?

For procedure on how to apply to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records (ABCMR), please click here.

*Note: If it has been less than 15 years since the date of discharge, veterans must first apply to the Army Discharge Review Board for consideration of an upgrade of their discharge (For more information on applying to the Army Discharge Review Board, please click here.).

Frequently Asked Questions

Does this guidance apply to those with a general discharge who wish to have their discharge upgraded to honorable?

This guidance only addresses those with under other than honorable condition discharges who are requesting upgrade.

What does "Liberal" mean?

The military service review boards have wide latitude and discretion to review and assess each case independently in order to correct errors and rectify inequity, regardless of the type or characterization of discharge. While we cannot predict the outcomes, this guidance is intended to ease the application process for veterans who are seeking redress by explaining what supporting evidence would aid their case and assist the Boards in reaching fair and consistent results in these cases.

What if I applied before to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records (ABCMR) for discharge upgrade and they denied?

If a previous applicant reapplies, given the new guidance, the ABCMR will consider it as a new case.

How long should it take to process my application?

With few exceptions, the Board reviews applications in the order in which they are received out of fairness to all. Due to the large number of applications already on hand and the complexity of many of the cases, it may be as long as 12 months from the date the board receives an application before an applicant receives notification of the decision. Be assured that the Board will consider each application as soon as possible and will notify the applicant by mail as soon as a decision is made.

Who will know about my case?

Submission of an application is a private matter between the applicant and the Board/Board staff. Only the applicant and those that the applicant authorizes in writing, such as counsel, will know about the case. However, some application information may be shared if the Board or Board staff requests an advisory opinion from other agencies that may possess relevant information or if any official agency that has a need to know requests information on individual cases. Under all circumstances, further release of information will be governed by the Privacy Act to protect the applicant's information.

Can I appeal the board's decision?

By Army regulation, an applicant may request reconsideration of an earlier ABCMR decision if they include new materials not previously considered by the Board and it has not previously been reconsidered.

Does the board have access to my health records?

The board does not always have access to the applicant's health record. If an applicant wants their service health records or VA health records considered, the applicant must provide it. For information on requesting health records call the VA toll free number at 1-800-827-1000