Military Discharge Upgrades: Representing Veterans' Rights

Level: Advanced
Runtime: 90 minutes
Recorded Date: November 11, 2019
Click here to share this program
Download PDF


  • Military Life and Disciplinary Actions
  • Military Separations
  • Types of Discharges
  • Effects of Discharges on Benefits
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD)
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
  • Discharge Upgrade Boards
  • Mental Health Arguments before the Boards
  • Application Preparation and Submission
Runtime: 1 hour 30 minutes
Recorded: November 11, 2019


An Other-Than-Honorable discharge means that a veteran was separated under conditions less than honorable. This discharge characterization deprives veterans of VA benefits, including physical and mental health treatment; limits their job prospects; damages reputations; and destroys self–esteem. Especially for those suffering from mental health conditions, these service-related disabilities should not preclude veterans from receiving care, benefits, and respect. A discharge upgrade can remove these barriers and allow veterans to receive the benefits that they deserve.

In this presentation, attorneys will learn about military life and discharges, the mental health conditions that plague our nation’s defenders, and the discharge upgrade process. The training will discuss the discharge upgrade boards and the burdens the veteran must meet in order to receive an upgrade. We will discuss best practices for brief writing and the type of evidence to include with an application.

This program was recorded on November 11th, 2019.

Provided By

American Bar Association


Danica Gonzalves, Esq.

Program Director
Discharge Upgrade Program

Danica Gonzalves serves as the program lead for The Veterans Consortium's Discharge Upgrade Program, sponsored by the DAV Charitable Service Trust. Danica originally joined TVC in 2017 as an Equal Justice Works Fellow and was sponsored by AT&T and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.

Danica leads the Discharge Upgrade Program team, which reviews discharge cases and primarily represents veterans who received an Other Than Honorable discharge due to misconduct related to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Military Sexual Trauma, traumatic brain injury and other related mental health issues. TVC’s Discharge Upgrade team also recruits and trains pro bono attorneys to represent veterans before Discharge Review Boards and Boards for Correction of Military Records.

TVC’s Discharge Upgrade Program has been in existence for more than two years and has already provided help to over 2,000 veterans, either by providing direct legal representation or other support.

Danica is a George Washington University Law School alum and currently lives in Washington, D.C. Her studies encompassed mental health law, healthcare, and disability rights. During law school, she founded Active Minds at The George Washington University Law School, a student organization raising mental health awareness on campus. She also serves as a speaker for mental health advocacy events. When she is not working, Danica enjoys dancing, photography, and traveling.

Jim Carlsen, Esq.

Director Business Operations
The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program

Jim Carlsen ’81 J.D. had practiced law in a variety of settings, from working in a large firm to serving as in-house corporate counsel. Although he greatly enjoyed his career, the driving force behind the places he worked was always the bottom line.

“In large firms and corporations,” Carlsen says, “you frequently take money from people with a lot of money and give it to other people with a lot of money.”

Though grateful for the many opportunities his employers had provided to hone his skills, after Carlsen retired he was eager for the chance to make more of a difference.

A volunteer opening with The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program (TVC) provided just the opportunity for Carlsen—a veteran himself who had served in a variety of legal roles for the U.S. Marine Corps—bringing him out of retirement and into an encore career where he could make an impact. Based in Washington, D.C., TVC recruits and trains attorneys to represent veterans or their family members who have filed appeals at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Carlsen found himself spending an increasing amount of time volunteering with the organization as a senior fellow, and when the executive director resigned in March 2019, he accepted an offer to serve in that role.

As part of his work with TVC, Carlsen helped create a program that's now one of the two primary services the organization offers—the Discharge Upgrade Program.

Similar Courses

Card image cap
90 minutes
"Help" is Not a Four-Letter Word: Overcoming Stigma
Do you know how widespread mental illness and substance use disorders are in the legal profession? We think you'll be surprised by this broad discussion about how they became so pervasive in the industry. This program will give you background information as well as practical advice on how to help eradicate the stigma of mental illness and substance use disorders in order to make the legal community a healthier one.

American Bar Association


Add to Cart
Card image cap
64 minutes
Attorney Discipline and Mental Impairment
Is your law practice taking a toll on you? Have you developed psychological or physical problems as a result? These impairments can manifest as professional misconduct or incompetence. Join Alex Yufik (Board Certified Forensic Psychologist and Attorney At Law) as he discusses the interaction between attorney impairment due to mental illness and the current state of attorney discipline as it attempts to balance the goals of public protection and assisting you in recovery.

American Bar Association


Add to Cart
Card image cap
57 minutes
Attorney Impairment: Ethical Implications & Difficult Conversations
In this program, Dr. Brian Russell, Clinical Psychologist and Attorney at Law, will discuss the different impairments that can affect an attorney. The ethics rules are implicated in addressing the issues involved and how it affects the practice of law. He will also discuss different ways attorneys can find help.

Dr. Brian Russell


Add to Cart
Card image cap
62 minutes
Autonomous Cars: The Changing Rules of the Road
In this program, we will review the fast approaching reality of autonomous cars and the legal changes required for us to move safely into this new fast lane of technology. Hear cutting-edge information from legal experts who have overseen the early stages of autonomous cars from development and regulatory perspectives.

American Bar Association


Add to Cart
Previous Next