Correction of Military Records
Whether a service member is on active duty, separated, or retired, he can apply to the service's Board for the Correction of Military Records to correct an error or an injustice in military personnel records.
Service member's Right to Apply for Correction of Records. Any person with military records, or his heirs or legal representative, may apply to the appropriate service's Board for the Correction of Military Records. The Army, Air Force, and Coast Guard have separate boards. The Navy operates the Board of Correction of Naval Records for both Navy personnel and members of the United States Marine Corps.
Title 10, United States Code, Section 1552 is the federal statute governing correction of military records. This statute authorizes the Secretary of the service concerned to correct any military record when “necessary to correct an error or injustice.” The purpose of this statute was to relieve the Congress from consideration of private bills to correct errors or injustices in military records. The statute provides for the service secretaries to act through a board of appointed civilians in considering applications for correction of military records. Air Force Instruction (AFI) 36-2603, Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records, implements the statute within the Air Force. Army Regulation 15-185 implements the statute within the Army. The Code of Federal Regulations; Title 33, Part 522 implements the statute within the Coast Guard. The Navy and Marine Corps implements the statute through the Code of Federal Regulations; Title 32, Part 723.
When to Apply to for a Correction of Records. A service member should exhaust other administrative remedies before appealing to his service's board. For example, the service member should first submit a performance report appeal to the appropriate appeal agency before appealing to a military records correction board. An appeal requesting upgrade of discharge should normally be submitted to the service's Discharge Review Board under Department of Defense Directive (DoDD) 1332.28, Discharge Review Board (DRB) Procedures and Standards. The board will return the application if the applicant has not first sought relief through the appropriate administrative process. Service members should submit requests within 3 years after discovery of the error or injustice. The boards do, however, sometimes review the merits of untimely applications. If found to be meritorious, the lack of timeliness may be waived in the interest of justice.
How To Apply. Application is a simple process. Service members should use a DD Form 149, Application for Correction of Military Record. Copies of statements or records that are relevant to the case should be attached. The form must be signed and the completed form mailed to the appropriate address on the back side of the form.
Supporting The Request. The Board will correct military records only if the applicant can prove that he is the victim of error or injustice. The service member demonstrates error or injustice by providing evidence, such as signed statements from the applicant and other witnesses or copies of supporting records. It is not enough to provide the names of witnesses. The Board will not contact witnesses to obtain statements. The applicant should contact his witnesses to get their signed statements to include with the application.
The applicant's own statement is important; it should be accurate, complete, chronological and concise (not more than 25 pages), and should explain what happened and why it is an error or injustice in simple, direct terms. Normally, the best evidence is statements from persons who have direct knowledge or involvement. Character references from community leaders and others who know the service member are helpful if he is requesting clemency based on post-service activities and accomplishments. This is only a general rule, however. The evidence that best supports each case is a matter of proper analysis and experience. It may take some time to gather statements and records to support the request; and applicants may consider delaying the submission of an application until information gathering is complete.
Getting Help. With few exceptions, all personnel records generated by the military may be corrected by the Board. The Board cannot, however, change the verdict of a courts-martial imposed after May 4, 1950. In these cases, the Board's authority is limited to changing the sentence received on the basis of clemency. The Board will mail the applicant a copy of the applicable service regulation upon request. If a case is complex, the applicant will likely benefit from representation by experienced counsel. If the applicant names a representative, the Board will normally deal directly with the representative.
Personal Appearances Before the Board. The applicant may request a personal appearance before the Board by checking the appropriate box on DD Form 149, item 6. The Board will decide whether a personal appearance is necessary to decide the case. Travel expenses are the responsibility of the applicant. The Board grants very few personal appearances, so applicants should try to fully present their cases in writing.
Advisory Opinions. After an application is received, one or more offices within the applicant's military service (JAG, hospital, personnel, etc.) will prepare an advisory opinion on the case. The advisory opinion will be sent to the Board with the case file. If the advisory opinion recommends denial of the request, the Board will send it to the applicant for comment. Remember that the advisory opinion is only a recommendation; the Board will make the decision on each case. The Board will ask for the applicant's comments on the advisory opinion within 30 days. The applicant may request an additional 30 days if needed. Reasonable requests are normally granted.
It may be unnecessary for the applicant to comment on the advisory opinion. Failure to comment on an advisory opinion does not indicate concurrence, nor will it prevent a full and fair consideration of the application.
Board Members. Each Service Secretary appoints high-level civilian employees who work for the military service concerned to serve on the Board. Service is normally an additional duty for those appointed. Members are randomly assigned to three-member panels for consideration of cases. Cases are randomly assigned to panels.
Board staff members research issues and provide technical advice to the panel members. They do not take sides or recommend a decision to the panel. Panel members receive a copy of the case for study before they meet. They normally discuss the case in closed session before voting. Their decision is based on the evidence in the case file.
The majority rules, but a dissenting member may submit a minority opinion for consideration by the Service Secretary or his/her designee.
The Decision. Following the vote on each case, the panel chairperson signs a record of proceedings. The record of proceedings will explain the reasons for the decision on your case. The Service Secretary concerned has the final authority to accept or reject a recommendation of the Board. In most cases, it is accepted.
When the Board completes a case, the decision is mailed to the applicant. If relief is granted, the service member's military records will be corrected and finance personnel will review the case to see if he is due any monetary benefits.
The Board is the highest level of administrative appeal and provides the final military decision. If the Board denies a service member's case, he may request reconsideration, or file a suit in the federal court system.
Reconsideration. A service member may request reconsideration of the decision on his case. The Board will reconsider a case only if the applicant provides newly discovered relevant evidence that was not reasonably available when the original application was filed. Newly discovered evidence may pertain to the timeliness of the application or to its merits. The applicant should submit a request for reconsideration within a reasonable time after new evidence is discovered. The Board will not reconsider re-argument of the same evidence.