Are you facing a discharge board as a member of the armed forces? If so, there are steps you should be taking now to protect your rights and ensure your best outcome at the board. Here are four helpful hints:
1) The most important thing you can do when facing a discharge board is to "fix the problem," i.e. make an effort to correct the reason you are being discharged. Most service members are discharged for one of two reasons: fitness test failures and minor disciplinary infractions. Even if you are being discharged for another reason, "fixing the problem," or at least attempting to do so, will carry great weight at your board.
a. If you are struggling to pass your fitness test, start working out as much as your body (and doctor) will allow. Document your workouts and workout with someone who can push you to do better. If you can't work out due to a physical ailment, go on a diet and document everything you eat. Even if you don't obtain a passing score, showing some initiative and progress will go a long way to winning a recommendation of retention at the board.
b. If your commander is attempting to discharge you for minor disciplinary infractions or a pattern of misconduct, simply stop getting in trouble. Identify a peer who is doing well and is well liked by your leadership, and model his behavior. Remember the military has invested significant time and expense into your training, and would rather keep you than have to discharge you. A change in your behavior will be beneficial to you at your board.
2) Often, a commander and senior enlisted leaders will want to discharge a servicemember, but the front-line supervisor disagrees. Make sure your supervisor knows you want to be retained, and that you are willing to do what it takes to stay in the military. Your supervisor can give you good advice about winning over the commander, and he can go to bat for you with the enlisted leadership. Having your supervisor on your side can be an invaluable benefit at your board.
3) Start gathering "evidence" and documents now. No, you don't have to become a private investigator. Start gathering anything about you that makes you look good. From your time in the military, start gathering any training certificate you've ever earned, all medal citations, any coins you've been given, any letters of accomplishment, records of any community service, etc. Also gather the names and contact information of anyone who may be willing to testify that you should get to stay in the service. If you are a junior enlisted member, gather materials from high school – varsity letter awards, academic achievements, community service awards, etc. The government will attempt to paint a picture of you as someone with no value that needs to be discharged from the service. It will be up to you to provide your military lawyer the evidence he needs to reveal your good side at the board.
4) Finally, make sure you have an excellent military lawyer on your side. The government will pool all its resources to make you look like a worthless Airman, Marine, Soldier, Sailor or Coastguardsman. You need a military lawyer who you can trust to go to bat for you and attack the government's case. This will likely include the ability to cross-examine your commander and senior enlisted members from your unit – something junior JAGs are sometimes unwilling or unable to do effectively. In closing argument, your lawyer will have to stand in front of a group of officers and argue to them that your commander is flat-out wrong, and that you should get to stay in the armed forces.
Don't take a chance on an inexperienced lawyer who has been assigned to your case. Brent Dishman of Dishman Military Advocates has represented hundreds of members facing discharge, and knows what it takes to win retention for his clients.
Contact us today for a free consultation.