One of the most common requests received by our military veterans attorneys is how to change a discharge. For whatever reason, many veterans, from all branches of service (army, navy, air force, marines, and reserves) believe a discharge is automatically upgraded six months after leaving the service and being discharged. This is false.
To determine if you may be eligible to upgrade your military discharge, the first step is to determine why you want to upgrade it. Generally, there are only two reasons: to obtain VA benefits such as the GI Bill, or because your discharge may be holding you back from obtaining employment.
If a veteran only desires to obtain VA benefits, then this route is simple and direct. The veterans must obtain a “Character of Service Determination” from the VA. This does not change upgrade your discharge on your official records, but it will allow you to obtain benefits from the VA. This service is generally more favorable to veterans and is filed at the VA regional office. However, keep in mind that this will not change your official DD214. Instead, your records will simply be changed within the VA system. The rest of the Department of Defense will see your original discharge when looking at your file.
If a veteran desires to upgrade the discharge to an Honorable discharge, then the veteran must go to either the Military Discharge Review Board or the Board for Correction of Military Records. These boards take longer to process and are generally less favorable to a veteran.