ABCMR Retroactively Awards Purple Heart and Other Medals to Vietnam Vet

The Army Board for Correction of Military Records (ABCMR) records recently awarded a Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, Vietnam Service Medal (3 Bronze Stars), Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm Unit Citation, Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Honor Medal First Class Unit Citation, and Expert Marksmanship Qualification Badge with Rifle and Machinegun Bars for a Vietnam veteran who petitioned the Board nearly 50 years after he sustained injuries in the Battle for Hill 875.

            A few observations about this case that apply generally to BCMR applications:

  • This case illustrates the broad authority of BCMRs to make meaningful corrections to service members’ records.  But retroactively awarding medals and citations is just a small example of the seemingly endless types of cases the BCMRs consider which range from requests for retroactive disability retirement to correcting promotion passovers and everything in between.
  • The veteran here applied to the Board almost 50 years after the date of the alleged error or injustice.  Note that parent federal statute governing BCMRs states that “No correction may be made . . . unless the claimant (or the claimant’s heir or legal representative) or the Secretary concerned files a request for the correction within three years after discovering the error or injustice.” 10 U.S.C § 1552(b).  However, the deadline can be waived “in the interest of justice” and BCMRs routinely do so.  Generally, if an applicant makes a reasonable showing that waiving the deadline is in the interest of justice, the Board’s three-year deadline rarely presents a barrier.
  • The veteran sought the assistance of his Congressional representative.  In my experience, I have seen mixed results from Congressional assistance but it can provide some useful leverage depending on the case.