Current Insights on the Army Discharge Review Board

Current Insights on the Army Discharge Review Board

Mr. Conway finished two Army Discharge Review Board hearings today. I've always written that success before the ADRB can be highly personality driven. The composition of the various boards (Army, Navy and Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard) change regularly. We rarely have two boards with exactly the same composition - though we see the same members frequently.

Members of the discharge review boards can come from a wide range of backgrounds (infantry, logistics, medicine, etc). They can have different experiences with command and legal. In that respect, they tend to ask different questions and have different concerns.

Today we had two cold panels. In other words, the members were not asking many questions. As a prospective applicant, you always have to be prepared for the possibility that the members of the board aren't going to ask questions. If that happens, it's up to you and counsel to ensure that the relevant information is presented.

Today COL Hart was presiding. He conducts his boards in a very friendly and welcoming manner. His demeanor is well suited for this board. We don't have much of a sample size yet in cases presided by the colonel.

The board members ask questions from junior to senior member - in that order. The president of the board usually goes last. By that time, many questions have been asked. As is typical, COL Hart was largely interested in learning what the applicant's wanted to gain from an upgraded discharge. Prospective applicant's appearing before the ADRB in the next few months will definitely want to be prepared to explain how the upgrade will benefit them.

One of the board's today had a physician - COL Stubbs. We have practiced in front of him before. As usual, he wanted to know about any external stressors that were occurring in the applicant's life. He will tend to ask about issues causing anxiety or depression. Those are helpful questions even in cases where there is no PTSD diagnosis. The lesson is that even in cases where there is no diagnosis, it's okay to talk about the pressures that you are experiencing at the time of the events that led to your discharge.

COL Caballero - as we've seen before - focused her questions on some of the pre-service issues that led to the applicant enlisting or commissioning. She also tends to be very good about asking about post-service conduct.

COL Fletcher asked an interesting question that Mr. Conway had never heard. He asked something to the effect of "If you were the commander, would you have chaptered yourself?" The answer to that, hopefully, will always be no.

The lesson today - for which we were fortunately prepared - is that you can't expect the board members to ask the appropriate questions. It's important to identify what information the board absolutely has to have to upgrade your case and then make sure they get that information.