Your VA Disability Case: Applying for a Discharge Upgrade


When you apply for VA benefits, your military status will affect your eligibility. The VA considers the “character of discharge” to determine if a veteran meets the requirements for benefits. If you were discharged under honorable conditions, you will likely have no problems getting benefits. However, if you were discharged under any other status, procuring those benefits may be more difficult.

How Long Do I Have to Apply for a Discharge Upgrade?

There are two different military boards that can issue a correction to a veteran’s discharge papers. The most common board that hears requests is the Discharge Review Board (DRB). A veteran has 15 years from the date of his or her discharge to apply for an upgrade in discharge status through the DRB.

If it has been over 15 years since your discharge date, you can apply for a correction to your status from the Board of Corrections for Military Records (BCMR). Veterans have three years to submit record requests to the BCMR, but late applications are generally accepted as long as veterans have a good reason for the delay.

The type of discharge you received will determine which board will decide if you are eligible for an upgrade. Depending on your status, you may apply to:

  • The Discharge Review Board (DRB). The DRB has the authority to make changes if the discharge issued was factually incorrect, against the law, or was inconsistent with military policies. DRBs can upgrade any general discharges that are other than honorable, as well as special court-martial bad conduct discharges. If you successfully provide evidence of good conduct, a DRB can change the reason for your discharge.
  • The Board of Corrections for Military Records (BCMR). If you were issued a general court-martial discharge or your desired changes involve a medical or medical retirement status, you will have to submit your request to the BCMR.

A discharge upgrade is the first step toward getting your veterans’ disability benefits. However, making these changes to your record is often complicated and can require the help of a veterans’ disability attorney. At Cuddigan Law, we advance the costs of applying for a discharge upgrade and do not charge you anything unless we win your case. Call us today at 402-933-5405 to have us explain your options.

Sean D. Cuddigan
SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska
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