Administrative Separation Boards, Administrative Discharge Boards, or Boards of Inquiry, are forums in which Servicemembers may be processed for administrative discharge ending their military careers. Each military service has its own unique regulations governing the proceedings. For example, U.S. Army administers Administrative Separation Boards for enlisted under Army Regulation 635-200, Enlisted Administrative Separations; U.S. Navy separates officers under SECNAVINST 1920.6C.
Here is what you should know about administrative separation boards:
1. The standard of proof for administrative separation board hearings is preponderance of evidence. This standard is much lower than beyond reasonable doubt. This does not require the trial counsel to prove his or her case for discharge beyond reasonable doubt.
2. The hearings are not governed by Military Rules of Evidence. Hearsay is admissible. This allows the trial counsel to present more evidence which normally would be inadmissible or otherwise objectionable.
3. Administrative separation boards may mean an early end to an otherwise successful military career, just like a court-martial. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in retirement pay could be lost. The characterization of discharge may affect veteran's benefits, employment opportunities, and other matters.
4. Generally, there are 3 characterizations of service that boards may determine: honorable, general (under honorable conditions), and other than honorable discharge.
5. Normally, it is best not to waive an administrative separation board. This is because each Servicemember, with enough time in, has a right to a fair hearing regarding his or her continued service. Also, Military Service Boards (Army Board for Correction of Military Records, or Board of Correction for Naval Records) that upgrade characterizations of discharges are less likely to upgrade them for a Servicemember who waived his administrative separation board.
When faced with an administrative separation board, you must take it seriously and act quickly. Retain an attorney who is familiar with a particular Military Service, knows the military law on administrative separations, and will zealously advocate on your behalf to increase your chances of being retained. For example, under AR 635-200, prior to an administrative separation board, each Servicemember must be counseled and allowed to rehabilitate. However, sometimes commanders initiate administrative separation boards without any counseling or opportunities to rehabilitate. By retaining an attorney who can effectively point this out to the administrative separation board, a Servicemember may prevail and be allowed to serve. Military law attorneys at The Federal Practice Group are available for consultation and ready to assist Servicemembers in prevaling during their administrative separation boards.