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Upgrading Your Discharge and
Correcting Your Military Records

Discharge Characterization

There are two types of discharge from the military: administrative discharge and punitive discharge. Every member’s service is characterized at their time of discharge, and the characterization impacts the benefits a member is eligible to receive.

After you have been discharged, it is possible to petition the appropriate board to upgrade the characterization of your discharge. Upgrading the characterization of your discharge may make you eligible for benefits you are not currently eligible to receive.

How long do you have to wait after discharge to appeal?

There is a common myth that you have to wait 6 months to file for an upgrade. There is another myth that after a certain period of time, your discharge will be automatically upgraded if you file. Neither of these is true.

You can appeal as soon as you assemble a strong package to submit. There is no waiting period.

Narrative Reason for Separation, Re-Entry Codes, and Separation Codes

In addition to a service characterization, every discharge includes a narrative reason for the discharge and separation code on the DD 214. The narrative reason for separation and separation code can impact eligibility for benefits as well as many other things like employment, college admission, and security clearance.

Every enlisted discharge also includes a reentry code (or RE code) assigned upon discharge. The RE code dictates whether a member can ever re-enter active duty, enlist in a different service, or serve in a Reserve or Guard component. Officer discharges generally do not have an RE code. Separation codes and RE codes vary between the services, though they are similar.

DD 214

The character of service, narrative reason for discharge, RE code, and separation code can all be found on your DD 214. You will need a copy of your DD 214 to begin the discharge upgrade process. If you do not have a copy of your DD 214, the first step to upgrading your discharge should be to request a copy of your DD 214 by:

  • Submitting a request electronically via ; or
  • Submitting a written request by completing the SF-180 and mailing or faxing it to the appropriate entity based on the table on the form for your branch of service and date of discharge. The SF-180 can be downloaded here:; or
  • Sending a letter that includes your name and social security number at the time of discharge, date of birth, military service branch, dates of service, and the records you are requesting to the National Personnel Records Center, Attn: Military Personnel Records, 1 Archives Drive, St. Louis, MO 63138.

How to Upgrade Your Discharge

There are two possible bodies that have authority to change your discharge: Discharge Review Board and Board for Correction of Military/Naval Records. Each service has their own Discharge Review Board and Board for Correction for Records. The body that will have the authority to upgrade your discharge depends on a number of factors including your branch of service, the date of your discharge, the characterization of your discharge, and whether you were discharged administratively or via a court-martial. Kral Military Defense can help you figure out which body has the authority to act on your petition, and put together the necessary forms and documents for your petition, including a legal brief on your behalf.

Discharge Review Boards

Each service has their own Discharge Review Board that reviews administrative discharges as well as bad conduct discharges adjudged by special court-martial. A discharge must have occurred less than 15 years ago for the Discharge Review Board to consider upgrading it. The Army Discharge Review Board (ADRB), Air Force Discharge Review Board (AFDRB), Coast Guard Discharge Review Board (CGDRB), and Naval Discharge Review Board (NDRB) (which also handles all cases from the Marine Corps) all have the authority to change the narrative reason for discharge, character of service, separation code, and RE code on the basis of propriety and/or equity.

To request a change to your discharge, a written package is submitted with the evidence and argument why your discharge should be changed. The DRBs do not generally take many investigative steps on their own, so it is important to have all supporting documents and arguments included in your submission.

You also have the right to request a personal hearing before the discharge review board. You can have a military attorney attend the hearing with you and question witnesses, facilitate testimony you want to provide to the board, and make a verbal argument to the board on your behalf.

Board for Correction of Military/Naval Records

Each service also has a Board of Correction for Military or Naval Records. The BCNR and BCMRs have the authority to upgrade discharges that are more than 15 years old, punitive discharges issued by a general court-martial, and discharges that were considered by the Discharge Review Boards but were not upgraded. The Boards for Correction of Records can make changes to records on the basis of error in the records or injustice.

A request to the BCNR or BCMR to upgrade a discharge is submitted in writing. There is no right to a personal hearing before the BCNR or BCMR, and personal hearings are rarely granted. The Boards do not generally conduct additional investigation. This makes it all the more important to ensure you submit the best evidence possible and have a strong argument in the written petition.

Discharge Appeal Review Board

In April 2021, the Department of Defense (DoD) established the Discharge Appeal Review Board. This board only has authority to hear a limited number of cases. The DAPB can only look at cases where discharge occurred on or after 20 December 2019 and that have already been reveiwed by the Discharge Review Boards and/or the Board of Correction for Military/Naval Records. A case must be submitted to the DARB within 365 days from the decision by the BCNR/BCMR denying the discharge upgrade.

Correcting Military Records

In addition to upgrading discharges, the BCMR and BCNR have broad power and discretion to correct any military record. Some examples include removing nonjudicial punishment records, restoring rank, correcting errors on DD214 or other records, and remitting debts. These are just some examples of what the BCNR and BCMRs can do. The Boards for Correction of Military Records can even change an administrative discharge to a medical discharge or retirement.

A request to the Board of Correction of Records to correct military records must be made in writing. Typically, a request must be submitted within three years of the error, however there are exceptions to this requirement.

Why is your choice of military defense attorney so important?

Your military discharge and records impact life even after you leave the military. Your eligibility for benefits, employability, options for school, and many other aspects of your life are impacted by your discharge or other military records.

The process to upgrading discharge or correcting records can be complicated and requires you to articulate your request through evidence and in writing. The presumption is in favor of the government, so you need an attorney who can argue against that presumption on your behalf. All the boards allow for reconsideration in certain circumstances, so even if you have submitted a package already on your own and your petition was denied, we can still help.

You need someone who knows how the process works, recognizes the evidence with the best chance of success, and is able to put forward a strong argument for you. Contact Kral Military Defense, PC today at 619-376-6820 or request a free consultation.


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*Please note, KMD does not handle cases involving the Department of Veterans Affairs, disability claims, or family law matters.

You never expect to need an attorney while you are serving in the Military. You even procrastinate thinking you can manage the simplicity of your case, because after all, you are innocent, and you think the Government will recognize that. However, sometimes simplicity is not a government characteristic and things can spiral out of control. If you are a service member and ever need legal assistance, I implore you to call an Attorney.You will want a knowledgeable attorney with a military background, extensive NLSO connections, who shoots straight and will be the sharp end of your legal sword.Stephanie Kral was my attorney through 3 years of managing my case against the U.S. Gov. and without Stephanie and her team, it would have been a nightmare. I am fortunate to have enlisted her services and had the opportunity to watch her navigate the complexities of military law. She is everything you will want in an experienced attorney for both simple and complex cases. Call them immediately!
Marty S.
Marty S.
The paralegal Danielle is one of the best I have worked with. She was and is still one of my mentors in my career and life. She took care of me a many others as a defense paralegal manager. She always makes time for you. Her knowledge and her compassion for taking care of people is why she is who she is!! The Best! She is someone you will always want on your side. She is truly one of the best people I know!!!!
Tasha S.
Tasha S.
Stephanie is the most professional, well respected, and most genuine legal person that I know in the business. After working with her, from the moment we talked to the time she finished my case, she gave not only 100 percent of her time and dedication but also complete devotion to my needs, advise, and my case without hesitation. Her extensive background in military law coming from her military background as a Major in the United States Airforce and now civilian law comes unmatched. Her dedication to protecting the rights of military members speakes for itself with the flawless record she has out there in the fleet. Words cant express enough what she has done for me and my family ensuring I got the fairest case available and the best outcome there was. Thank you Stephanie. She is the best there is!!
Anthony B.
Anthony B.
Fortunately, I have not had to use these services however, once I heard Danielle worked here I knew I would be in good hands should I ever need assistance. Danielle was my paralegal supervisor when I was first entered into the paralegal career field and she changed my career trajectory for the better. She paved the way for me to promote through the ranks and managed my training phase from an apprentice to a journeyman in the career field. She has expert knowledge and provides candid feedback to those who ask. She's an all around professional.
Don G.
Don G.
I have been attempting to write this review for Stephanie for 3 months, Everytime I write it I delete it because I don’t think it’s good enough. This review was long past due but To the individual that may be facing any type of legal troubles from the bottom of my heart this is THE lawyer that you want on your side. At the age of 21, I faced 20 years in prison for a crime I did not commit. Stephanie is the definition of top-tier no words can describe how grateful I am for Stephanie and her team. She not only got my case dismissed, but she gave me my life back, for 2 1/2 years I was stuck in South Korea my command didn’t allow me to take leave. When I told Stephanie she dropped everything and went above and beyond, Steph personally told the government they better allow me to take leave to see my family. THE SAME DAY! They granted me 45 days of leave & when I came back I received a call from Stephanie, yelling with joy “ they are dropping all the charges “. Stephanie is that lawyer you see in movies who always wins, even when you feel like something isn’t going right Stephanie is always in control. Not only did the government lawyers respect her, the judge respected her , the Commanding General respected her and knew her name. So all I can say is thank you Stephanie and if you’re someone who truly needs help this is your lawyer ! Stephanie told me I was her second longest case that she ever had but one thing I can always guarantee about Stephanie is she never lacks when it comes to communication anything you wanna know anything you should know she will let you know Stephanie is an open book she tells you how it is she’s not gonna lie to you or waste your time.From the bottom of my heart thank you Stephanie !
Darrell L.
Darrell L.
Steph is the best in the business. She is compassionate, hardworking, intelligent, diligent, and knowledgeable. As a fellow attorney and colleague, I have reached out to Steph to bring her on board and help with some of my toughest cases, knowing having her by my side would lead to the best possible outcome.She is a fierce advocate for her clients; she does not back down or take nonsense from anyone. She is one of the few attorneys I would never want to see on the other side of a case.If you are in a tough spot and in need of legal assistance, you will not find better representation than Stephanie Kral.
Daniel M.
Daniel M.
Before I retired from the Air Force, I had a life altering experience. I was accused of some very serious crimes and facing major prison time if convicted. I was referred to Stephanie Kral by a legal advisor and man, was I happy that I obtained her service. This woman is a master of her craft. She was professional, focused, extremely through with her research and background information gathering. Mrs. Kral’s litigation skills are at extraordinary levels and once I’ve seen her 1st day in court I knew I was is great hands. I owe my life to Stephanie Kral and I would recommend her to anyone needing the best military criminal defense attorney around.
Erik M.
Erik M.
Stephanie Kral is an amazing attorney. She went above and beyond and works tirelessly to get the best outcome. She is a caring and intelligent attorney who chooses to personally communicate with you along the way, always making you feel like a priority. Stephanie, Thank you for all you do!
Erin S.
Erin S.

About The Firm

Kral Military Defense defends members of America's military throughout the world. We do not maintain physical office space in the traditional sense. Instead, we offer secure video and telephone consultations and meet with current clients, as needed, at home and abroad.

Office Location

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Suite 400
San Diego, CA 92108

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