General Officer Memorandums of Reprimand (GOMORs) are among the most abused mechanisms in the Army’s reprimand process and, once filed, can have devastating consequences on a service member’s military career. If you have received a GOMOR or other adverse written reprimand, contact one of our military defense lawyers today to learn more about your rights.
The Army has come under increased scrutiny in recent years due to abuses by commanders in its reprimand process. Among the most abused mechanisms is the Army’s notorious General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand (GOMOR). GOMORs are the Army’s way of punishing Soldiers when there is not enough evidence to support Article 15 punishment or court-martial. Once filed, a GOMOR can have career-ending consequences for a Soldier.
AUTHORITY TO ISSUE A GOMOR
AR 600-37, Unfavorable Information, sets forth the Army’s policies and procedures on when unfavorable information can be placed in, transferred within, or removed from a Soldier’s Army Military Human Resource Record (AMHRR). The regulation directs commanders to “take appropriate action(s) with reference to unfavorable information concerning members of their commands.” Authority to issue and direct the filing of a GOMOR is typically restricted to general officers and school commandants.
While AR 600-37 provides the authority to issue a GOMOR, the regulation fails to provide any standard of proof which must be met before a Soldier can receive an administrative reprimand. As a result, Soldiers routinely receive GOMORs based on weak evidence or substantiated allegations which later prove untrue.
REBUTTING A GOMOR
Service members have an absolute right to submit evidence that rebuts, explains, or mitigates unfavorable information. AR 600-37, paragraph 3-2, affords service members two important due process rights in rebutting a GOMOR.
First, the recipient of a GOMOR is entitled to the “opportunity to review the documentation that serves as the basis for the proposed filing.” The documentation should be largely unredacted to enable the Soldier to meaningfully rebut the allegations.
Second, the Soldier is entitled to a “reasonable amount of time to make a written statement in response.” Active duty Soldiers are usually provided 7 calendar days to respond, while Army National Guard and Reserve Soldiers receive 30 calendar days. Commanders will typically grant reasonable requests for extension of time beyond these deadlines.
A written statement in response can be prepared by the service member or their attorney. When drafting a rebuttal, it’s important to consider both the content of the response and whether providing evidence in support would be helpful or harmful. Soldiers are often told simply to accept responsibility in their GOMOR response and beg that the reprimand be filed locally. However, any admission of guilt can later be used against a Soldier at Article 15 punishment, court-martial, chapter board, or any other administrative or criminal proceeding.
The decision of what approach to take in a GOMOR rebuttal is highly fact specific and should be made in consultation with an attorney.
FILING A GOMOR
Commanders issuing GOMORs have only two filing options: permanent filing in the performance portion of the AMHRR or local filing.
Permanent. Regardless of the issuing authority, a GOMOR may be filed in a Soldier’s AMHRR only upon the order of a General Officer. The General Officer must be senior to the recipient or given direction from an officer having general court-martial jurisdiction over the Soldier. GOMORs filed in a Soldier’s AMHRR will be filed in the performance folder. Unfavorable information should only be included in the performance portion of the AMHRR “after considering the circumstances and alternative non-punitive measures.” One placed in the AMHRR, a GOMOR will be permanently filed unless removed through the appeal process.
Local. The second option is to file the GOMOR locally. A local filing may only be filed for up to 18 months, or until the Soldier is reassigned to another general court-martial jurisdiction, whichever is sooner. A locally filed memorandum should state the length of time the letter is to remain in the local file and provide a point of contact for the Soldier after the expiration date to ensure removal. The Soldier and the unit are equally responsible for removing the letter from the local file after 18 months.
Anonymous communications cannot be filed in a Soldier’s AMHRR or filed locally.
CONSEQUENCES OF RECEIVING A GOMOR
Receipt of a GOMOR can have significant adverse consequences. Soldiers flagged as a result of unfavorable information are unable to PCS or promote and are typically viewed as guilty until proven innocent by their chain-of-command and fellow service members.
Issuance of a GOMOR may also trigger a variety of administrative reviews like the Qualitative Management Program (QMP), Promotion Review Board (PRB), and Standby Advisory Board (STAB), to name a few. Unfavorable information which casts doubt on the suitability of a Soldier to hold a security clearance may be reportable to the supporting counterintelligence office.
A GOMOR may also be a precursor to more serious administrative or punitive action such as nonjudicial punishment (Article 15), court-martial, or a separation board.
APPEALING A GOMOR
The Department of the Army Suitability Evaluation Board (DASEB) is the initial appeal authority for GOMORs and make recommendations for removal, alteration, or transfer or unfavorable information entered in a Soldier’s AMHRR. The DASEB considers appeals from Soldiers serving on active duty, in the National Guard, and in the Reserves (in grades E-6 and above). The DASEB does not accept appeals from veterans and retirees.
A GOMOR properly filed in a Soldier’s AMHRR is presumed to be administratively correct. However, the officer who directed the filing in the AMHRR of an administrative reprimand “may request its revision, alternation, or removal if later investigation determines such information is untrue/unjust in whole or in part.” A Soldier may likewise request the removal or transfer of a GOMOR that was improperly filed.
REMOVAL VS. TRANSFER
Appeals for removal. A Soldier may request removal of a GOMOR on appeal. The Soldier has the burden to show, by clear and convincing evidence, that the GOMOR is either untrue or unjust, in whole or in part. Evidence submitted in support of the appeal may include an official investigation showing the allegation was untrue; decisions by superior authorities overturning the basis for the adverse documents; notarized witness statements; historical records; official documents; and/or legal opinions. There is no time restriction to submit an appeal for removal of unfavorable information from the AMHRR.
Appeals for transfer. A Soldier may also request that a GOMOR be transferred to the restricted portion of their AMHRR. To be eligible for a transfer, a Soldier must have received at last one evaluation since imposition of the GOMOR. The Soldier must prove by substantial evidence “that the intended purpose of the document has been served” and that transfer of the unfavorable information “would be in the best interest of the Army.” Such evidence may include statements of support from the imposing authority or the Soldier’s current or previous chain of command; subsequent evaluation reports; court documents; notarized witness statements; statements of remorse; documents demonstrating rehabilitation; and any other information which proves that the intended purpose of the GOMOR has been served.
Soldiers who are retired, separated, or serving in the Individual Ready Reserve must appeal to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records to request removal or transfer of unfavorable information within their AMHRR.
CONTACT MJA TODAY
If you have received a GOMOR or other adverse written reprimand, contact one of our military defense lawyers today to learn more about your rights.