Department of Defense Expands Guidance for Veterans Seeking Discharge Upgrades in PTSD-related Cases

On February 24, 2016, Acting Principal Under Secretary of Defense Brad Carson issued a memorandum to the secretaries of the military departments that substantially augmented previous guidance on how military record-correction and discharge review boards address applications by Veterans claiming PTSD or related conditions. 

In September 2014, the Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel directed the boards to give “liberal consideration” to various forms of evidence for petitions seeking discharge upgrades based on claims that PTSD and PTSD-related disorders existed at the time of discharge and otherwise mitigate the severity of any underlying misconduct that may have led to an adverse discharge.  The guidance also directed the boards to liberally waive their applicable statutory time limitations and give timely consideration to subject applications.

With a stated purpose to “re-new and redouble” the policy goals articulated in Secretary Hagel’s memorandum, Acting Secretary Carson has now mandated that the boards to waive the applicable time limitations in all subject petitions.  But more importantly, he has directed the boards to afford de novo review of petitions decided before Secretary Hagel’s September 2014 guidance went into effect.  Thus, the likely hundreds--if not thousands--of applicants whose petitions were denied before September 2014 can now reapply for discharge upgrades under more favorable conditions.