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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


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


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