We were brought in for the personal appearance only. For many service members with adverse discharges, they simply are not economically able to afford civilian counsel. Over the last few years, the market rates for civilian lawyers have sky-rocketed. Part of that is attributable to the ever-increasing costs of advertising. As a law firm with DC roots, we've had the luxury of being able to afford to represent service members at or below market rates. Having said that - for decades - our firm set the market rate. Unfortunately, many lawyers are now setting up websites and billing far too much for DRB hearings.
The young man we represented today was a joy to work with. He was everything you would expect a Marine to be. Yet, he received an OTH for honest mistakes. It's a common story.
-Marine gets divorced;
-Marine gets ready to deploy;
-Marine tries to correct his BAH;
-The paperwork gets lost;
-He gets accused of BAH fraud;
-Military lawyers convince him to waive his right to a board and accept an OTH. They threaten him with many years in jail.
Now, the reality in a BAH fraud case is that we usually have pretty good success. Even in our cases where the client is found guilty, there is rarely jail or a discharge - unless the amount of BAH fraud is extremely high and there is evidence of forgeries or other dishonesty. Cases involving honest mistakes usually go well. But, young Marines do what they are told even if it means accepting an OTH.
I don't know how this case will play out. We won't know for many weeks. Nevertheless, we got some good intel.
The presiding member was Colonel Morrisroe / USMC. He is exceptionally knowledgeable. He comes from a family with military lawyers. He can ask very direct questions. In cases involving board waivers, you can expect him to be critical of any allegations that the military lawyer was inept in advising the board waiver.
LTC Naylor was on the board. He did not have many questions today. He historically has asked good questions about post-service conduct.
There was a new member - MAJ Lowry. He asked good questions about current employment.
My understanding is that LCDR Ferguson is a nurse practitioner. As expected, she focused her questions on medical related issues. I won't discuss those here at all.
The recorder was CDR Torrance. The Navy and Marine Corps Discharge Review Board is different from the Army. The NDRB has a recorder who is a voting member. In this case, CDR Torrance did a good job asking questions about post-service conduct.
That's the intel for this board. They asked a solid number of questions. It was not a cold panel like my last hearing at the AFDRB.