LASC Study Reveals Lack of Attention to Veterans’ Claims of Racism in Discharge Upgrades

A study conducted by the Legal Aid Society of Columbus (LASC) has found that the military boards charged with addressing veterans’ discharge upgrade requests grant claims on the basis of racial discrimination at a lower rate than their overall grant rate. The study, which looks at discharge upgrade decisions between 2010 and 2020, reveals that upgrades based on racial trauma occur in LESS THAN 17 PERCENT OF THE CASES—with most rates far lower.

Each branch of the military has two boards that decide discharge upgrade requests. Discharge Review Boards (DRB) handle petitions from Veterans within 15 years of their discharge. Veterans with an older discharge or who were denied by the DRB apply to a Board for Correction of Military Records (BCMR).

“Unlike most administrative and civil courts that place statutes of limitation on a victim’s ability to seek redress from employee discrimination or harassment, members of the military have an almost unlimited timeframe to request a remedy,” says LASC Staff Attorney Karin Nordstrom, who conducted the study. “The military is in a unique position in that it could use its lenient timeframe policy to make amends for a long history of racial discrimination in the armed forces.”

“Given the overall low approval rate, it appears that military leaders have lost an opportunity for reconciliation of past injustices. The decisions that we reviewed from each branch of the military indicate an unwillingness to confront racial disparities,” Nordstrom says.

Report Findings: Percentage Grant Rate for Racial Trauma Claims

Army

Discharge Review Boards: 11.54

Board for Correction of Military Records: 6.73

Navy & Marines

Discharge Review Boards: 0

Board for Correction of Naval Records: 0

Air Force

Discharge Review Boards: 5

Board for Correction of Military Records: 16.67

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL REPORT

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Advocating for Equality in Ohio’s Highest Court

Advocating for Equality in Ohio’s Highest Court

After serving in the United States Army as a combat medic, Marcus Pryor was honorably discharged in August of 2012. Upon his discharge, he applied for unemployment compensation through the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) and was granted benefits. However, seven months later the Director of ODJFS issued a redetermination and ordered Pryor to repay the benefits already received. Then, as allowed under Ohio law, Pryor decided to appeal the determination to the Unemployment Compensation Review Commission and when the Commission ruled in the Director’s favor, again sought to appeal the decision with the court of common pleas. Pryor was unfortunately not granted the appeal because he failed to list the Army as an interested party in his appeal, which meant that a small clerical error limited his access to a fair hearing.

Pryor subsequently appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.  The Legal Aid Society of Columbus (LASC) and other Legal Aid organizations across the state filed an Amicus Brief in support of Pryor.  The Ohio Supreme Court allowed LASC attorney Kathleen McGarvey time during oral argument. In May 2016, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in Pryor’s favor, explaining that Pryor had completed his duty to ensure he was granted an appeals hearing by simply filing the appeal on time. This decision by the Ohio Supreme Court provides a step in the right direction to ensure that all individuals tackling important legal issues will not be sidelined by administrative nuances that only those well versed in the law can understand. LASC is proud to have assisted Pryor in his case, and commends his hard work in front of the highest court in the state. Moving forward, we remain strongly committed to justice and our mission to advocate for equality in a complex legal system.

 

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