Your military records determine whether you get promoted or discharged, and the type of benefits available upon discharge. Sometimes, whether through a mistake or an illegal or unlawful action a person is not promoted or is improperly discharged. Sometimes the military records do not accurately reflect a service related injury and, as a result, disability pay is not awarded.
Congress has made it possible for past and present military members and Coast Guards to correct their military records. By law, the Secretary of each branch has set up boards whose purpose is the correction of military records. These boards, one for each branch and another for Coast Guard, have the power to fix a variety of problems.
They can: upgrade a discharge, backdate a discharge, award a promotion, award back pay and benefits, void an administrative discharge, return a member back to active service, void OERs or NCOERs, explain gaps in the member’s records and correct records to award a higher disability rating.
The boards cannot overturn a court-martial conviction. However, in some special circumstances, boards have removed all references to the court-martial from a member’s records. In order to apply for a correction you need to submit a DD Form 149 within three years of the wrongful act. For example if a member was improperly discharged in 1997, he has until 2000 to file the DD 149. On the other hand, a member cannot complain that he was illegally passed over for promotion in 1990, since that was eight years ago.
Most cases heard before the boards are considered solely on the DD 149. The board can grant a formal in person hearing. However, these hearings take place in Washington and the military will not pay for travel and lodging. There is no cost to submit the DD 149. Also the board can only upgrade records, it cannot downgrade them.
Let’s look at some examples to see how the board operates and how it can correct records.
Example #1: A member is passed over for promotion due to poor evaluations. The member can prove that the evaluations should not have been in her records. The board, based upon documentary proof, can void the evaluations, remove them from the file, void the pass over, and place an explanation in the file for the gap in the evaluations.
Example #2: Instead of the member being passed over once, let’s assume she was passed over twice and was discharged. In addition to voiding the evaluations and the decision of the promotion boards, she can be returned to active duty, as if the discharge had never occurred. Additionally, she would be entitled to back pay.
Example #3: A member has 25 years of creditable service. However, records only reflect 20 years. The board can correct the records, adjust the retired pay and award back pay.
Example #4: A member retired based on time in service not a disability. Member proves that disability existed and it was service connected. The board can correct the member’s record to reflect a disability retirement.