Discharge Upgrade Glossary


Board for the Correction of Military Records (BCMR)

Apply to this board if you were discharged more than 15 years ago. The board has a three year limitation but it can be waived "in the interest of justice." A BCMR has much more authority than a DRB to upgrade discharges and change the reason for discharge or information in your records. If your application was denied by a DRB, you can still apply to a BCMR. A BCMR cannot make your discharge worse. Apply to BCMRs with DD Form 149.

The Carson Memo

A 2016 memo from then-acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. The memo completely waived the statute of limitation for discharge upgrade applications before BCMRs. The memo also provided that veterans who applied to a BCMR or DRB before the Hagel Memo could apply again. If a veteran applies again, the reviewer should not consider any past rejection. The Carson Memo can be accessed here.


The form to apply to a Board for the Correction of Military Records (BCMR).


The form you get after leaving the military that summarizes your service. It will include your discharge status (e.g., OTH, General, Honorable), the reason for your separation (e.g., Medical, Misconduct), and other information.


The form to apply to a Discharge Review Board (DRB).

Discharge Review Board (DRB)

Apply to this board if you are within 15 years of your discharge. A DRB can upgrade the character of your discharge and change the reason for your discharge. A DRB cannot make your discharge worse. Apply to the DRB with DD Form 293.

The Hagel Memo

A 2014 memo from then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. The memo made it easier for veterans with PTSD or TBI to receive discharge upgrades. It instructed DRBs and BCMRs to be more considerate of veterans with histories of mental health conditions. The Hagel Memo can be accessed here.

The Kurta Memo

A 2017 memo that provided additional details on how to treat discharge upgrade applications from veterans with PTSD or other mental health conditions. The memo allows veterans who previously applied for an upgrade to re-apply for consideration under the new rules. The Kurta Memo can be accessed here.

Letter of Support

Letters from friends, employers, family, and other people who know you can help your discharge upgrade application. Choose people who can speak to your particular challenges and the progress you have made. 

Mental Health Condition

A mental health condition can change how a person behaves, feels, and thinks. Sometimes this change can cause problems. It is often hard to diagnose mental health conditions and the person affected may not realize it. Common mental health conditions for veterans include PTSD and TBI. But others may also be related to military service. If a veteran's mental health condition contributed to that veteran's discharge, the veteran may be eligible for a discharge upgrade under the Hagel and Kurta memos.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a condition that starts after a scary, dangerous, or particularly challenging event or time. PTSD can seriously change how a person behaves or feels. Many veterans are diagnosed with PTSD; many more may have it but not realize. If PTSD (even undiagnosed) contributed to a veteran's discharge, he or she may be eligible for a discharge upgrade.

Standard Form 180 (SF-180)

The form to request your DD-214 or your personnel record.

Statement of Material Contentions

An outline of your written statement. Include all of the topics you want the reviewer to consider. 

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

TBI may occur when a person injures their head. TBI can make a person irritable, unable to focus, confused, or cause other problems. Many veterans with TBI may not realize it affects their behavior. If TBI (even undiagnosed) contributed to a veteran's discharge, that veteran may be eligible for a discharge upgrade.

Written Statement

An important part of the discharge upgrade application. This is your chance to tell your story and why it is right to grant a discharge upgrade or other correction. Make sure to use the appropriate legal standard in your written statement ("proper" and "equitable" when applying to a DRB, correcting "errors" and removing "injustices" for BCMRs) if possible. If relevant, you can also discuss any mental health conditions in the written statement. The written statement does not need to fit in the small box on the form.

Source URL: https://www.statesidelegal.org/cm-discharge-upgrade-glossary