How to Upgrade an Undesirable Discharge to an Honorable Discharge

by Victor Hall

Receiving a less-than-honorable discharge from the Armed Forces can haunt the rest of your life, diminishing career prospects, causing loss of benefits and damaging your reputation. You can seek to have your discharge upgraded by appealing to the proper service branch. Though the results are not guaranteed, this is an avenue worth pursuing if you feel that your undesirable discharge was undeserved. If the veteran is deceased or incompetent, an appeal can be pursued by the surviving spouse, next of kin or legal representative.

Obtain a Discharge Review Board application, DoD Form 293. The form is available online at the Defense Technical Information Center website, from a Department or Defense installation or from a regional office of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Type or print all of the information requested on Form 293. Attach copies of statements or records that pertain to your case. If you want to appear before the Discharge Review Board, check the appropriate box on the form. To receive a discharge upgrade, you must prove to the board that your undesirable discharge was "inequitable" or "improper."

Submit the form online or by mail to the Discharge Review Board of the proper service branch. Each branch maintains its own board, except that the Navy board handles cases involving both Navy and Marine veterans.

Wait for notification of the DRB's decision, or of the time and place of your personal appearance if you requested one. After completing the application process, you will receive the board's decision in six to eight weeks.

Tip

  • Law requires that an application for discharge upgrade be submitted within 15 years of discharge. If you were discharged more than 15 years ago, you must apply for a change to your military records. Complete DoD Form 149 and submit it to the Board for Correction of Military Records of the military branch in which you served.

About the Author

Victor Hall worked for 28 years as a copy editor, reporter and page designer for daily newspapers around the South. A language and etymology enthusiast, he believes Mark Twain's dictum that almost the right word is to the right word as the lightning bug is to lightning.

Photo Credits

  • small american flag image by Scott McCarty from Fotolia.com