Discharge Upgrade Manual
The Military Discharge Upgrade Legal Practice Manual, written by attorneys from the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center and Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School’s Veterans Legal Clinic, is a comprehensive guide to representing veterans with less-than-honorable or otherwise stigmatizing discharges before military review boards. This landmark publication—the first of its kind in 30 years—serves as a desktop reference for anyone interested in advocating for veterans, restoring honor to those who have served, and opening doors to life-altering support.
The Manual covers fact investigation, legal research, and case strategy in advocating for discharge upgrades before military review boards. Each representation stage receives detailed attention, from initial intake to administrative proceedings to federal court review.
Expert practitioners in the field offer guidance for successful representation in a complex area of advocacy, covering:
- Identifying procedural errors in the military discharge process;
- Finding inequities and injustices in the discharge;
- Compiling and developing evidence;
- Crafting arguments to support the relief sought;
- Presenting a compelling narrative to the tribunal;
- Framing and preserving legal issues for review to an appellate court;
- Pursuing remedies through the Department of Veterans Affairs Character of Discharge Determination process.
Development of the Manual was made possible through a grant from the Bob Woodruff Foundation. The manual is available for purchase from the American Bar Association.
Hear from the experts on why this groundbreaking manual is a must-read for anyone hoping to successfully represent veterans in their discharge upgrade applications:
"Unjust discharges can mar veterans’ service, impede their future employment, and strip them of earned benefits. Upgrading these discharges not only remedies a past injustice, it eliminates current and future injustices. I hope this book gives advocates the tools they need to help the hundreds of thousands of veterans with bad paper seek justice."
-Margaret Kuzma, Connecticut Veterans Legal Center
"An Honorable Discharge is a point of great pride and achievement for every veteran and it must remain so. However, there are cases where a service member’s discharge does not recognize all the factors contributing to conduct, especially the effects of PTSD and other neurological and psychological issues. It is here that the Military Discharge Upgrade Legal Practice Manual provides a major contribution. It presents a comprehensive and detailed explanation of all aspects of the discharge review process. It allows individuals and their counselors to understand their rights and the procedures necessary to reassess a discharge. The authors have made a valuable contribution to all who have served."
-Senator Jack Reed, Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee; U.S. Army Veteran
"This book represents in every way the intent of my 2014 PTSD memo instructing a review of less-than-honorable discharges. I hope it will help grow the field of discharge upgrade advocacy so all veterans with unjust or erroneous discharges will have their service to our country recognized. We owe every veteran nothing less."
-Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Defense (2013-2015); U.S. Senator (1997-2009); Vietnam Veteran (U.S. Army)
"I commend the authors for creating a reference that will be immensely helpful to veterans’ advocates. Unfavorable discharges can initiate a downward spiral that can have devastating effects on an individual’s life. A “bad discharge” can seriously curtail employment opportunities, eliminate entitlement to veterans benefits and permanently stigmatize a former military member. This manual includes numerous advocacy tips and invaluable references that will help users—including those with no military experience—to effectively help clients who have served the nation."
-Will Gunn, Legal Services Corporation General Counsel; General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (2009-2014); U.S. Air Force Veteran
"Comprehensive, detailed, and accessible, this Manual is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in helping veterans overcome unjust and stigmatizing discharges. But the Manual is much more than a guide for advocates. Its publication also serves as a call to action. Legal services organizations, pro bono attorneys, law school clinics, and other allies—we all must work to expand the legal profession’s commitment to veterans, including especially to those veterans who carry with them into civilian life the enormous burdens of an unjust discharge."
-John G. Levi, Chairman, Legal Services Corporation; Partner, Sidley Austin LLP
"This book is long overdue. For a long time now, I felt that veterans have been getting a raw deal, sacrificing and coming home with bad papers. You come home, you can't get a job, you can't go to school. I commend the authors and legal aid practitioners that provide services to veterans. This book will help more veterans throughout the country get legal assistance and fight the injustices of a bad discharge."
-Conley Monk, Co-Founder and Director, National Veterans Council for Legal Redress; Vietnam Veteran (USMC)
"In 1986, anti-LGBTQ policies forced me to resign my commission from the U.S. Army. Since then, I have advocated to end the Department of Defense’s discriminatory policies, and while the military is now more inclusive, too many veterans remain stigmatized by vestiges of discrimination in the form of less-than-honorable discharges and other pejorative labels. This manual provides advocates with the tools necessary to remove these enduring injustices. It is my staunch hope that attorneys, advocates, and veterans will use it to ensure that all service is recognized and respected."
-Hon. Halee F. Weinstein, District Administrative Judge, District Court of Maryland, District 1; Baltimore City Presiding Judge and Founder, Baltimore City Veterans Treatment Court; U.S Army Veteran