All five U.S. military branches allow former service members to request an upgrade in their discharge. Getting a discharge changed is not easy. A military review board must be convinced the original discharge was improper or inconsistent with service policies and traditions. An applicant can request a review based solely on his or her military records, or ask for a hearing before the board. Getting a general discharge upgraded to honorable can increase Veterans Administration benefits. Next of kin, a spouse or legal representative can appeal on behalf of a former service member who is deceased or incompetent.
Get advice. Service organizations including the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars and state or regional veterans offices offer advice and, in some cases, free legal representation. For example, if you request a personal hearing you forfeit the right to a record review. An expert can help you pick which path to pursue.
Obtain DD Form 293. This government form is available online and must be filed to the review board responsible for your former branch of service. Mailing addresses for the service branches and directions on how to complete the form are provided. The Army allows you to file your review request online. You have the option to attach medical, military or veterans affairs documents that support your claim. Signed statements from witnesses are allowed. Form 293 applies only to review requests made within 15 years of the date on which you left military service.
Obtain DD Form 149 if your date of separation from military service is more than 15 years ago. This form requests a review to correct your military service record. The form is available online with directions to fill it out and where to send it. A different military board will review your case. Your right to a personal hearing is not automatic, it must be approved by the review board.