The Bob Woodruff Foundation Offers Veterans’ Rights Advocates Free Access to Military Discharge Upgrade Legal Practice Manual - Bob Woodruff Foundation

The Bob Woodruff Foundation Offers Veterans’ Rights Advocates Free Access to Military Discharge Upgrade Legal Practice Manual

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Publication helps advocates represent veterans who received unjust or erroneous discharges

In partnership with the American Bar Association (ABA), the Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF) is providing attorneys and advocates who work with veterans free access to the Military Discharge Upgrade Legal Practice Manual (“Manual”). The Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, the Connecticut Veteran Legal Center, and Swords to Plowshares drafted the guide for advocates who help veterans upgrade unjust discharges. These unjust discharges are commonly referred to as “bad paper discharges.” The Manual addresses discharges resulting from PTSD, military sexual trauma, or discrimination based on race, gender, and sexual orientation correct unjust and stigmatizing discharges.

BWF invites veteran’s advocates to request a free copy of the Manual via an online application. BWF will begin distributing the Manuals on July 18, 2022, and will continue until they have distributed all free Manuals. The Manual provides veterans’ advocates, regardless of their experience with the armed forces or military law, information to help veterans complete their applications. The Manula also helps veterans’ advocates develop their claims by

  • identifying procedural errors in the separation process.
  • finding inequities and injustices in the discharge.
  • collecting and developing documents that support arguments for relief.
  • thoroughly and compellingly presenting a narrative in the light most favorable to an applicant.
  • framing and preserving legal issues for review by an appellate court.

According to the ABA, the “Manual covers fact investigation, legal research and case strategy in advocating for veterans in discharge upgrade petitions to military review boards. Every stage of representation receives detailed attention, from initial client intake to administrative proceedings to federal court review.”

Impacts of a Bad Paper Discharge

A bad paper discharge impacts whether a former service member

  • may be eligible for federal veterans’ healthcare, education, and other benefits, and
  • the level of benefits a former service member might receive.

According to Turned Away, published in 2020, it is estimated that more than 400,000 veterans are at risk of being turned away from benefits and services they may be entitled to because of bad paper discharges. Yet, it is often our veterans with bad papers who may have the greatest need for benefits and services. Again, citing the 2020 report, “veterans with bad paper have higher rates of mental health conditions, suicide, homelessness, and unemployment. Many have disabilities related to their service, which may have led to their discharge with bad paper.” The Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, Veterans Legal Services, and Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale and Dorr LLP prepared Turned Away.

About The American Bar Association
Founded in 1878, the American Bar Association (ABA) is committed to advancing the rule of law across the United States and beyond by providing practical resources for legal professionals, law school accreditation, model ethics codes and more. The ABA’s mission is to serve equally their members, their profession and the public by defending liberty and delivering justice as the national representative of the legal profession. For more information, visit


Military Discharge Upgrade Legal Practice Manual

Turned Away