On September 3, 2014, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel issued supplemental guidance to the Correction of Military/Naval Records (BCM/NR) for veterans seeking discharge upgrades when the underlying misconduct may have a relationship to service-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Service secretaries have been directed to implement the guidance within 45 days.
A copy of the directive can be found at Secretary Hagel Guidance. It remains unclear to me if Secretary Hagel intended to limit this directive to Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharges or more generally to any undesirable administrative or punitive discharge (such as General Under Honorable Conditions or Bad-Conduct Discharges). Regardless, this will have a potentially positive affect for veterans who are being denied benefits before the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) because of an unfavorable characterization of service determination and have a diagnosis of PTSD.
I would advise those veterans who are being treated for service-related PTSD and were discharged with a characterization of service for something other than honorable (and I mean DoD honorable) to: 1) ask their treating mental health professional to draft a letter explaining what, if any, the relationship is between the PTSD diagnosis and service misconduct; and 2) consider applying or re-applying to their operative service Board for an upgrade of discharge.
If you have questions concerning your level of discharge, applying for an upgrade of discharge, and/or the affects on VA benefits, please don’t hesitate to contact me at (732) 382-6070 or via email at sdirector@FRE-L.com.