Administrative Separation Boards & Boards of Inquiry
When the military seeks to terminate you from your employment in the armed services, the procedure is an administrative separation (AdSep) board or a board of inquiry (BOI). There are minor differences in the AdSep board and the BOI, but the major difference is that an AdSep board is for enlisted service members and the BOI is for officers. When this happens, you must first be notified in writing that your command wants to separate you. In most instances, you have the opportunity to waive your board and agree to be separated. You should NEVER waive your board without consulting with an attorney first. Waiving your right to an AdSep board or BOI can have consequences that will last for the rest of your life.
A board is not a criminal proceeding. When you are sent through the board process, you do not have the same rights that you do at court-martial. That is because a board cannot result in criminal conviction or confinement like a court-martial; the military considers the consequences of a board to be “administrative” in nature. You do have the right to a hearing, and to present evidence and witnesses on your own behalf. But the Government does not have to present live witnesses against you because the rules of evidence (as used in a court-martial) do not apply at AdSep boards and BOIs. The Government can simply present a package of documents to prove their case. You do have the right to a military defense counsel, as well as the right to hire a civilian defense counsel to help prepare your case.
A board consists of three members and their responsibility is to decide four basic questions: (1) is there a basis for separation; (2) should the service member be retained or separated; (3) what should be the characterization of service; and (4) should suspension of the separation be recommended. These are all important questions. Your attorney will present evidence and witnesses to the board to help decide these questions in your favor. The goal is always to argue for retention in the service, i.e. to not be terminated from the military. However, if a service member is separated, characterization of service becomes extremely important. You can be separated with a characterization of honorable, general, or other than honorable (OTH). An honorable characterization entitles you to keep all privileges and benefits from your military service. A general discharge entitles you to keep many privileges and benefits of your military service, but you do lose several benefits including the G.I. Bill. An other than honorable discharge basically removes all privileges and benefits from your military service. Additionally, there is no magic time period after which you can get an automatic upgrade (e.g. after 6 months). If you receive an OTH discharge, it will be very difficult to ever change that.
If you are pending an AdSep board of BOI, please contact us at 703-684-7908 to assist you. We will put all our efforts into the board process to try to avoid some of these consequences.