I just received a letter of reprimand and I have three days to respond. What do I do?
If you have just received a letter of reprimand from a commanding general or another commander, you will not have much time to respond. However, in my opinion it is important that you do. You can ask the commander for an extension in the time he or she is giving you to respond and typically you will get more time. So what is a letter of reprimand and what should you write in the rebuttal? A written reprimand is a step above a counseling statement. In order to issue a letter of reprimand, your commander only needs to find that you committed misconduct by preponderance of the evidence. This is a very low standard. Sometimes a letter of reprimand will simply state that your actions were wrong simply because they led to a negative appearance. In some cases, letters of reprimand are issued because there is not enough proof for an Article 15/NJP or a court-martial. However, this low standard doesn’t mean that you don’t have the right to challenge what is written in the reprimand. In fact, I think that you should write a rebuttal in almost all cases. The rebuttal is your chance to respond to whatever allegations you are facing. If there was an investigation leading up to the reprimand, you should attempt to get a copy of it so that you can specifically respond to what the accuser and witnesses said in their statements. In the rebuttal, you can address your side of the story. Also, in the rebuttal you can address the law. If the commander states in the letter of reprimand that you violated an article of the U.C.M.J., then the elements of that article should be addressed. In this rebuttal, you should also take the time to tell the commander about your service to your country so far. You need to take the opportunity to “toot your own horn.” This could help convince the commander to either withdraw the reprimand all together or it could convince him to file it locally. If you are in the position where you know that you are guilty of whatever you are being reprimanded for, sometimes it is in your best interest to apologize for your actions in your rebuttal. You can then ask the commander to file it locally. So what is the difference in filing decisions? The commander could decide to file your letter of reprimand in a local file or a permanent file. If it is filed permanently, then it will stay in your personnel file and follow you from job to job. It can be a huge obstacle for you when it comes to getting promoted or other positive steps in your career. If it is filed locally, this is much better. It will not follow you to your next job. Therefore, you will get a clean slate at your next location. So, when you write your rebuttal letter, the goal is to either convince your commander to withdraw the letter altogether or to file it locally. The goal is to keep it out of your permanent file. If you are unable to convince him to keep it out of your file, there are boards for each of the services that you can apply to later to have it removed from your permanent file. These evaluation boards are specifically designed to reevaluate whether the reprimand should remain in your file. I have a great deal of experience in assisting my clients to submit strong rebuttals to letters of reprimand. I also have a lot of experience in submitting appeals to the evaluation boards after the fact. If you or your loved one has received a letter of reprimand, you should find someone with experience to help you. To speak to an experienced court-martial and military defense attorney, call Bill Cassara at 706-860-5769 for a free consultation.