When you enter the U.S. military, you plan to either serve for life or receive an honorable discharge. You don’t plan for a bad conduct discharge or a dishonorable discharge. Receiving anything but an honorable discharge can make you worry. In addition to taking away the honor of serving in the armed forces, a less than honorable discharge can make it difficult to find employment and enjoy the other benefits of successful service in the military.
In addition to the disappointment and stigma of a less than honorable discharge, you might also face a loss of valuable veteran’s benefits. These benefits can be critical to you and to your family. You may not even know what the total price might be over your lifetime when you’re facing discharge proceedings. Your discharge status can also determine whether you can reenlist.
Why does the military discharge service members?
The military may want to discharge you because of inappropriate behavior. You might face a court martial or other disciplinary action because of your conduct. This can result in the military’s decision to release you from service. If you have an alcohol dependency or drug abuse issue that renders you unfit to serve, they might want to discharge you for that reason. Some discharges occur because of physical injuries and illness.
Types of discharge
A discharge isn’t limited to just honorable or dishonorable. A veteran can also receive an entry level separation, a general discharge and an administrative discharge. In fact, a veteran has to complete their service in an exemplary or outstanding fashion in order to receive an honorable discharge.
After your discharge
If your discharge has already occurred, you may be able to ask the military to upgrade your discharge status. This may be an option for you even if your discharge occurred a long time ago. To succeed in upgrading your status, you have to be able to show that an error occurred when the military originally gave you the unfavorable discharge status. This means documenting your case.
Although this might seem like an impossible task, these types of appeals are becoming more and more common. You need to prepare and submit a Department of Defense form called the Application for the Review of Discharge or Dismissal from the Armed Forces of the United States. This document includes personal information. You must also prepare a statement about why you deserve to have your rank changed.
An attorney can help you prepare this documentation. They can help you write your statement in a convincing way. Your military discharge attorney can help you choose which arguments are most likely to convince the people who decide your appeal. They can make sure that your paperwork is complete and correct. It’s also helpful to have written statements from your supervisors at the time of your discharge. It can take several months to receive a decision about your appeal.
Before your discharge
If you’re currently facing a court martial proceeding that comes with a likelihood of a discharge, it’s critical to work with an attorney to address the allegations against you. You may be able to defend yourself from the charges against you and save your discharge status at the same time. At this stage, you have options to defend yourself against the underlying allegations that are leading to the potential of your discharge.
This might mean pleading not guilty and asking for a trial on court martial proceedings. If this is still an option, it gives you the chance to take your case to a panel of jurors that decide whether you’re guilty of the underlying charge. This is a lot like a criminal case in a regular, non-military court. You have the right to make statements on your behalf. Your military discharge criminal lawyers can help you make the most of this opportunity to argue your case to the jury.
In addition to the possibility of taking your case to trial, you might also use the court martial proceeding in order to negotiate a suitable resolution to your case. You might be able to negotiate a plea offer that takes your discharge status into consideration. Prioritizing your discharge status during a court martial proceeding can help you minimize the damages and plan for your future. Your attorney can help you evaluate your options to give you confidence in your choices.