The Department of Defense has reneged on its promise to get out the word to veterans with less than honorable discharges who want to appeal their cases under a special presidential review program.

As a result, only a few thousand of more than two million veterans eligible to apply for upgraded discharges will be able to meet the Dec. 31 deadline for review applications.

The Pentagon, which lavishes millions of dollars a year on its public information programs, has been shamefully tightfisted in its publicity campaign for veterans whose less than honorable discharges may have been meted out unfairly.

The military limited its promised informational effort to modest notices in the Federal Register, a publication read mainly by lawyers and law students. It's safe to say that few readers of the Federal Register have less than honorable discharges, thanks to the stigma such discharges attach to the recipients seeking employment in any but the most menial jobs.

Much of this stigma comes from the public's ignorance of the often capricious way these discharges are handed out. This, of course, is precisely why the Pentagon brass doesn't want a lot of publicity about the process, and why the presidential review program is so badly needed.