FIVE STEPS TO A SUCCESSFUL BCMR PETITION
STEP 1: FILE ON TIME
The first and most important step is to make sure your application is timely. You must request that the BCMR correct your records within three years (3) of discovering the error or injustice. it is possible to get the BCMR to waive this requirement, but the burden is on you to show that making an exception to the deadline is in the interest of justice. Thus, If you know your request is late, then it is critical that you explain why the deadline should be waived.
STEP 2: APPLY TO THE CORRECT BOARD
The next step seems obvious, but it is crucial that it is not missed. Generally speaking, there are two sets of Boards which could potentially supply you relief. The first is called a Discharge Review Board (DRB). The DRB is considered a lower board and should be applied to when you were discharged less than 15 years ago, you were not discharged by general court martial, and this is your first time applying for a discharge upgrade.
The second, higher Board is called the Board for Correction of Military Records (BCMR). Importantly, BCMRs are the highest level of administrative review within the different Military Departments. The duty of a BCMR is to correct any errors or remove injustices from a military record. If you already applied to the DRB, your application to the BCMR will be treated as an appeal. The BCMR will look at what the DRB did and see if the action was proper. Each branch of the military has its own BCMR so it's important that you apply to the Department in which you served.
STEP 3: GATHER RECORDS
Building the narrative of your military service is key to any successful application to the BCMR. In any good petition, this narrative will be supported by evidence and records. the most important records you need to make sure you obtain are:
A DD-214 is simply your official discharge form. This form contains critical information for your petition. In essence, the DD- 214 is the first important document you need to apply for a discharge upgrade. A DD-214 will include information like the reasons for and character of your discharge. If for whatever reason you do not have a copy of your DD-214, you can obtain one by filling out a Standard Form 180 (SF-180). Obtaining your complete military records is much the same. It can be done by filling out the Standard Form 180 (SF-180) as well.
To get a copy of your medical records from the VA, you need to fill out VA Form 10-5345a. it is important that you give the Board access to your medical and dental records. This will ensure the Board has all the information it needs to make a decision in your case. Giving the Board access to your medical records is as easy as filling out form DD2870.
Other necessary records may be obtained through the agency itself. These records can include anything from records from the DRB or BCMR, military and non-military inpatient medical records, brig or stockade records, rehabilitation center records and trial records. These records can usually be obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request.
STEP 4: CRAFT A WINNING PETITION
Crafting a winning petition is easier said than done. The vast majority of applications submitted to the BCMR are denied without a hearing. However, with the right amount of support and proper organization, your petition can be successful. Because BCMR petitions are uphill battles it's important you retain an experienced attorney or firm to assist you. The money you spend upfront will be well-worth it down the line when your application is granted.
The petition is your and your attorney's big chance to explain anything that is wrong in your record and how you have changed since any issues with misconduct or discipline. Since this may be your only opportunity, do not waste it. Write your statement on a separate document and include it as an attachment. The standard form isn't a fraction big enough to explain the entirety of your case.
Including and citing the proper legal standard is important when formulating your response. This is where a lawyer can come in to help you. The Board is looking for several key legal standards when reviewing an application. These include whether there is an "error or injustice" or taking action would be "proper and equitable." An experienced lawyer can cite to the specific definitions and examples of these standards.
In addition, you should attach several letters of recommendation to your application. These letters can be written by anyone who knows you well including those who served with you, friends, family, and other professional colleagues. These letters should discuss your character, work ethic, or knowledge of the errors in your record.
STEP 5: SENDING IN THE APPLICATION
Finally, all there is left to do is organize your completed application and send it in to the correct mailing address. Organization is key to any successful application. Complete the DD Form 293 (DRB) or your DD Form 149 (BCMR) and include it as the very top of your application. Consider including a Table of Contents to help the Board in reviewing the application. Once the application is sent it becomes a waiting game.
The above article is a 5 step guide on how to apply to the BCMR written by one of our experienced BCMR attorneys. Contact us today for a free consultation regarding your BCMR application. Our attorneys have a reputation for being efficient, successful, and affordable.