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Qualify for Veterans Benefits by Correcting in Your Military Record

If an error in your military record makes you ineligible for a veterans benefit, then fix the error and qualify for the veterans benefits you deserve. Perhaps DD Form 214 doesn’t include all of your active-duty service or maybe it’s missing a critical medal, such as the Purple Heart. If you fix such errors, you may qualify for a benefit you didn't qualify before.

When you’re getting ready to leave the military, one of the final out-processing actions you accomplish is to sit down with a military personnel clerk and go over your DD Form 214 in detail. You’re supposed to make sure everything is correct before you sign it.

However, we all know how that goes. You’ve got a thousand things on your mind, and you’re in the middle of going to about 2 million out-processing appointments. It’s easy to miss something, especially if you’re not thinking about possible veterans benefits in the future.

Each service has its own Board for Correction of Military Records (BCMR) that handles the correction of records. The Navy establishes the board for sailors and Marines. Board members are high-ranking civilian employees of the service and are assigned to the board by the secretary of the service. Board members are assigned to three-person panels that decide the cases.

Grounds for requesting a change to your military service record

To apply for a change of your military record, you must convince the board that the information in your record is in error or that it has resulted in an injustice.

  • In error is pretty obvious. It simply means the information in your record isn’t correct. For example, you performed 26 months of active duty, but your record shows you performed only 20 months.

  • An example of an injustice would be if there were a letter of reprimand or a negative performance report in your record that was written by a military supervisor who clearly was out to get you.

You should submit your request within three years of discovering, or reasonably could have discovered, the error or injustice. The boards review the merits of untimely applications. If the board finds your case to be meritorious, it can waive the timeliness in the interest of justice. You shouldn’t assume, however, that a waiver will be granted.

Required paperwork for changing your military service record

You submit your request by using DD Form 149, Application for Correction of Military Record. This form is available from VA regional offices and online at the Department of Defense's Information Management Division. Mail the completed application to the appropriate board address listed on the second page of the form.

You should be very careful when you complete this form. Attach copies of statements or records that are relevant to your case. For example, if your DD Form 214 includes an error concerning your active-duty service time, you’d want to submit copies of your military orders placing you on active duty.

Your own statement is important. Begin with item 9 of DD Form 149 and continue to item 17, if necessary. You may also put your statement on plain paper and attach it to the form. Limit your statement to no more than 25 pages. Explain what happened and why it is an error or injustice in simple, direct terms.

Normally, the best evidence is statements from people who have direct knowledge of or involvement with the situation. For example, you can submit statements from people in your rating chain if you’re contesting a performance report. Another example would be a statement from the person who counseled you if you are alleging improper counseling.

The board will correct your military record only if you can prove that you’re the victim of error or injustice. This decision is made solely on the evidence you provide. You can’t simply include witnesses’ names. The board won’t contact them. You need to obtain and provide the statements yourself.

Advisory opinions on your military service record

After your application is received, one or more offices within your military service (Judge Advocate General’s office, military hospital, personnel center, and so on) will prepare an advisory opinion on your case. The advisory opinion is sent to the board with your case file. If the advisory opinion recommends denial of your request, the board will send it to you for comment.

The advisory opinion is only a recommendation. The board actually makes the decision in your case.

You have 30 days to submit your comments on the advisory opinion. You may request an additional 30 days if you need it. The board usually grants reasonable requests for additional time.

It may be unnecessary for you to comment on the advisory opinion. If you have nothing further to say, don’t bother to respond. Failure to comment on an advisory opinion doesn’t mean you agree, nor does it prevent a full and fair consideration of your application.

If the board denies your request, there is no appeal, except if you decide to sue the Department of Defense in federal court. However, if you provide newly discovered relevant evidence that you didn’t know about when you filed your original application, the board may agree to reconsider your case.

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