11 Sep Fixing Errors in Your Military Record
Upon leaving the military, it is imperative to meet with a military personnel clerk and meticulously review your DD Form 214 for accuracy before signing it. If, at a later stage, you identify errors, it is possible to rectify them.
The Board for Correction of Military Records (BCMR) oversees corrections to military records. Each branch of the military has its own BCMR, with the Navy having a separate board for sailors and Marines. These boards comprise high-ranking civilian employees within the service, appointed by the service secretary. Board members work in three-person panels responsible for making determinations in cases.
Understanding the Grounds for Requesting Changes
To request a modification to your military record, you must demonstrate to the board that the information in your record is incorrect or has caused injustice in some manner.
- **In Error**: This term implies that the information in a veteran’s record is factually incorrect. For instance, if a record erroneously indicates 20 months of service when the veteran served for 26 months.
- **Injustice**: Injustice arises when, for example, a letter of reprimand or a negative performance report authored by a military supervisor appears motivated by ill will toward the veteran.
If an error is discovered, it is advisable to submit a request for correction within three years of identifying the issue, as untimely submissions are viewed unfavorably. While the board has the discretion to waive untimeliness, it is prudent not to delay unnecessarily.
Submitting the Appropriate Paperwork
To request corrections in military records, individuals should use DD Form 149, Application for Correction of Military Record, available at VA offices or online at www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/infomgt/forms/eforms/dd0149.pdf. Complete the form and mail it to the relevant board address listed on the second page.
Take extra care when completing the DD Form 149, as your statement on the form is of paramount importance. Ensure you attach copies of statements or relevant records to support your case. If the error pertains to active-duty service time, include copies of your military orders that detail your active duty.
What you write in your statement, starting from item 9 of DD Form 149 and continuing to item 17 if necessary, is crucial. You may also write your statement on plain paper and attach it separately. Clearly explain the details of what transpired and why the error or injustice occurred, limiting your statement to no more than 25 pages.
When contesting performance-related issues, the most valuable evidence in terms of witness statements often comes from individuals in your rating chain. Another example would be statements from personnel who provided counseling if you are alleging improper counseling.
The decision to correct a military record hinge solely on the merit of the documentation provided and the board’s judgment. The board members possess the exclusive authority to amend or alter a military record. When applying for a military record correction, ensure you include complete statements and contact information; providing only contact information will not suffice, as it is not the board’s responsibility to contact them.
The advisory opinion is prepared for a specific case upon receiving the submission and is sent to the board. The case is organized by one or more offices within the individual’s service, such as the Judge Advocate General’s office, military hospital, or personnel center. If the advisory opinion recommends denial, it is sent to the submitter for review and comment.
The board has the ultimate authority to make decisions, and the advisory opinion is just that—an opinion. If you are dissatisfied with the outcome, you have 30 days to provide your comments in response to the advisory opinion. An additional 30 days may be requested if necessary.
Failure to provide comments in response to an advisory opinion does not necessarily indicate agreement with it, but it also does not hinder a fair evaluation of the application. If you have nothing further to add regarding the opinion, providing comments may be unnecessary.
Unless you choose to take legal action against the DOD in federal court, there is no avenue for appeal if the board denies your request. However, the board may reconsider the case if new information comes to light that you were unaware of at the time of the initial application.