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What Can I Do If I’m Getting a General Discharge with 3 1/2 Years in of a 4-Year Contract?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi, I’m Andrew. I did 3 years and 6 months on a 4-year contract. Some things happened and I’m getting a General discharge. What can I do?

A: Well Andrew, it is not so much of what you can do as what you would not be able to do and that is use your GI Bill benefits. In order to do so, you have to have a fully Honorable discharge.

So about the only option you have is to request a discharge upgrade to Honorable. It is not a complicated process, but it can be a long one – up to one year before you hear back with a decision and there isn’t a guarantee you will be successful at getting an upgrade; only about 41% get an upgrade.

To start the process, fill out and submit DD Form 293 to your military branch Discharge Review Board. They view every discharge as being correct, so it is your job to prove why yours is not correct and convince them to change it.

There are a couple of ways you can plead your case. One is to fill out the form and send it in allowing your documentation to stand on its own. The second way involves personal representation at the board along with your DD Form 293. Your personal representation can be either yourself or you can hire a civilian lawyer with discharge upgrade experience to represent you. If you go the lawyer route, you have to pay for his/her services even if you win.

While there are not guarantees you would get an upgrade, it is the only chance you have of ever being able to use your GI Bill benefits, so it is worth the time (and possibly the cost) to try.

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