Defending Those Who Defend Us®
  • Article 15/NJP: the collateral consequences that you are not being told

    We recently received a call from a U.S. Army Captain stationed at Camp Humphreys, South Korea. He had already been offered, and accepted, an Article 15 from his commanding officer for allegations of conduct unbecoming an officer based on comments he made to a fellow officer after a night of drinking at the Officer’s Club. At the time of his call he had five days to appeal his Article 15, and wanted to know what his options were for appealing the Article 15, and the subsequent punishment. After we had explained to the officer that his chances of appealing his Article 15 were rather low, he indicated that he was told by the Trial Defense Services (“TDS”) attorney that it was in his best interest to accept Article 15, rather than risk a court-martial over the matter. The officer went on to say that the TDS attorney told him that he should accept Article 15, and simply plead not guilty. We indicated to the officer that this line of thinking was not necessarily wrong, but we asked whether the TDS attorney explained the other half of the story – the collateral consequences for accepting Article 15? The officer answered, “no.”

    After we expressed dismay in the fact that he had received less than adequate advice from the local TDS, we walked him through the likely impact his Article 15 conviction would have on his career, and life. Let the young officer’s mistake be a lesson for all of our readers:

    1. Impact on servicemember’s evaluation reports. An Article 15/NJP conviction requires the rating official to file a negative evaluation in the permanent personnel file of the servicemember. In a downsizing military, whether you are an officer or enlisted, if you receive a negative evaluation or fitness report this will likely disqualify you from being eligible for re-enlistment.
    2. Involuntary administrative separation. In many cases the Article 15/NJP conviction will later be used for a basis or grounds for the involuntary separation of the servicemember. This can be particularly important if the servicemember has served less than 6 years, because the command does not need to provide a board to separate the servicemember.
    3. Recoupment of re-enlistment or bonus. If a servicemember received a bonus for his re-enlistment, or based on his MOS schooling (i.e. nuclear submarines; flight school), and was involuntarily separated prior to his EAS/ETS, it is very likely that the U.S. Government will try to recoup a pro rata amount of that same bonus.
    4. Loss of VA benefits. If a servicemember is discharged from the military with an other than honorable characterization due to misconduct disposed of at Article 15/NJP he will likely lose nearly all VA benefits, to include educational benefits, such as the GI Bill.

    So, if you find yourself in a situation where you are being offered an Article 15/NJP for allegations of your own misconduct, first ask whether you can accept accountability for something that you did not do. If so, then consider that by accepting Article 15/NJP you will likely be signing away your career, and benefits.

    We would be honored to serve as your advocate and partner during the period of your military legal process. Please get in touch and arrange your free initial consultation.

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