Lunch & Learn: Discharge Upgrade - Bob Woodruff Foundation

Lunch & Learn: Discharge Upgrade

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In partnership with Harvard’s Legal Services Center, we are excited to convene national experts to discuss how procedural processes to administratively discharge service members for misconduct have historically failed to recognize service-connected conditions, are inconsistently used across DoD, and contribute to significant crisis within the veteran serving community. According to a GAO study, one in five service members discharged between 2011-2015 with an other-than-honorable (OTH) designation were later revealed to have a service-connected TBI and/or PTSD, placing these veterans at higher risk for an adverse transition experience due to service-connected behavioral and mental health challenges.

Service members discharged from the military under conditions that are OTH lose access to benefits designed to meet the health and social needs of veterans transitioning back into communities. These veterans are more likely than veterans discharged with honorable conditions to be incarcerated, experience homelessness, be diagnosed with substance use disorder, and die by suicide. VA’s Community Homelessness Assessment, Local Education and Networking Groups (CHALENG) survey consistently reports that access to discharge upgrade support as a top ten unmet need of veterans experiencing homelessness.

In 2018, BWF funded the creation of the updated Discharge Upgrade Practice Manual after recognizing the poor outcomes at discharge review boards within DoD. BWF’s grantees at Harvard’s Legal Services Corporation, Connecticut Veteran Legal Center and Swords to Plowshares were supported by experts across the US to create a comprehensive guide for attorneys and veteran service officers supporting veterans through this complicated process. Prior to the creation of the manual, the nations most well-respected legal advocates had ~10% success rate at review boards. This manual serves as a resource for all advocates supporting veterans through the discharge upgrade process in DoD and character of service determination process in VA.

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