Military Administrative Separations and Boards of Inquiry have been on the rise within the military services. For commanders, Administrative Separations offer a streamlined, low-cost means of separating Officers, Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, Sailors and Coast Guardsmen without going through the court martial process. Pursuing a court martial as a means of separating someone from the service means a process that will take many months and sometimes more than a year. The process is costly for the command in terms of money and manpower because the command must pay for the travel of both government and defense witnesses, and for expert witnesses, if necessary. The court martial process also requires the command to assign jurors and at least one bailiff, all of whom will lose a number of days of work to complete their assigned duties as court martial members.A low cost and streamlined alternative that denies the service members the rights afforded during a court martial is an administrative separation, or the Board of Inquiry for officers. The administrative separation process does not obligate the command to pay for the travel of witnesses or to provide experts. In fact, the command must do little more than provide the respondent service member a notice that she or he will undergo an administrative separation. The notice advises that the service member has a right to military counsel and civilian counsel. It also advises the respondent service member that she or he has a right to submit evidence to the administrative separation board. Those constitute the fundamental rights at an administrative separation hearing. The respondent may call witnesses but, unlike a court martial, cannot compel the government to produce them and pay for them. The respondent has a right through his or her own lawyer to questions witnesses but does not have a right to confront the evidence against him or her. The hearsay rules does not apply. That means that the government can submit statements and summaries of statements without bringing the people making the statements into the hearing. Because there are essentially no rules, commands are increasingly opting to go this route because it allows commanders to separate service members with an Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharge without going through the more rigorous court martial process that affords service members extensive constitutional rights.An administrative separation under Other Than Honorable conditions can result in substantial prejudice in life to service members. An OTH will deny a service member essentially all Veterans Administration benefits. It also results in the loss of veterans’ benefits from the various state veterans administrations. California, for example, affords the children of honorably discharged service members free college education at any state school. An OTH will result in the loss of that benefit. Illinois has the veteran’s scholarship which covers all tuition at any state university or college for honorably discharged members. An OTH will result in the loss of that benefit by Illinois veterans. It goes without say that service members notified that they will undergo an administrative separation hearing must take the notice with appropriate seriousness because it will have lifelong consequences.Five Most Important Actions to Take in Preparing for an Administrative Separation Hearing
Army, National Guard and Reserves– Enlisted Administrative Separations AR 135-178
Navy (Officer and Enlisted) – MilPersMan 1900
Air Force. Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard – AFI 36-320
Marine Corps and Marine Corps Reserve (Officer and Enlisted) – Marine Corps Order 1900.16C
Familiarity with the regulations allows the service member to better assist the lawyer and to better understand the rights afforded to the service member.