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Types Of Military Discharges & Separations: The Ultimate Guide

Written by Everett Bledsoe / Fact checked by Brain Bartell

Types of Military Discharges

Military discharge is a term that refers to the status of a service member leaving their branch of the military. There are various discharge types military, each with its own set of consequences. A discharge can affect veterans’ benefits, job opportunities, and personal lives.

It is important for both active-duty personnel and veterans to understand the different types of military discharges and their implications. Simply put, there are five types of military discharge: honorable, dishonorable, general discharge under honorable conditions, other than honorable, and bad conduct.

In this blog post, we will delve deeper into each type, its eligibility requirements, and the consequences associated with it.

Military Discharges in the US

Types-of-military Discharges-in-the-US

When military personnel completes their service, they receive a military discharge, which is essentially a release from active duty. However, not all discharges are created equal.

Reasons for administrative separation? How does it work?


For your information, administrative separation is a process wherein a service member may be removed from their line of service due to standard violations, malpractices, or failure to comply with military laws. However, their misconduct must not be severe enough to warrant bringing their case to court-martial.

Below are the most likely reasons that a service member must face administrative separation:

  • Abuse of drugs and alcohol
  • Problems with physical health (which may result in medical discharges)
  • Subpar performance within the military
  • An officially filed memorandum
  • A substantiated NJP (nonjudicial punishment)

Should the commander find you unfit for military life, they will try to have you discharged via administrative separation. Once the decision is made, you will receive a written notice, which you can appeal to argue your case, should you not agree with the decision.

If all the odds are stacked against you, you may face two types of punitive separation: dishonorable discharge or bad conduct discharge. Read on to find out more about these discharges.

Types of Military Discharges in the US


Military discharges are either administrative or punitive. The former can be voluntary or involuntary, while the latter is determined by court-martial.

Administrative discharges include honorable discharge, general discharge, and other than honorable discharge. Punitive discharges include bad conduct discharge and dishonorable discharge.

Below, we will go through each of the levels of military discharges.

1. Honorable Discharge 


Definition and Eligibility

This is the most common type of discharge and the most esteemed type. It is given to individuals who have served their country with distinction and have met or exceeded the military’s standards for performance and personal conduct.

To receive an honorable discharge, a service member must have fulfilled their service commitments, obeyed all laws and regulations, and received satisfactory ratings in their performance evaluations.

Now that you know the honorably discharge meaning, let’s look at the benefits.

Benefits of an Honorable Discharge

An honorable discharge is highly valued because of the many benefits it provides to service members. Those who get an honorable discharge are eligible for veteran benefits, including medical care, veteran compensation, educational opportunities, housing loans, and employment assistance.

Additionally, an honorable discharge is often a prerequisite for certain positions in the public and private sectors.

2. General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions


Definition and Eligibility

A general discharge under honorable conditions is issued to service members who don’t fully meet the job requirements or expected standards of conduct. In other words, a member is eligible for a general discharge if their performance is still considered satisfactory, just not enough to receive the highest level of discharge.

Service members may get a general discharge under honorable conditions if they have not completed their full-service contract, have received an Article 15, or have had unsatisfactory performance ratings.

Benefits of a General Discharge

Service members who receive a general discharge under honorable conditions are eligible for some benefits on the veteran benefits chart, including medical care and VA disability benefits.

Another good thing about a general discharge is that it can be appealed and changed, so there’s a chance the service member can get a full Honorable Discharge.

Limitations of a General Discharge

A general discharge Army may limit a service member’s future opportunities. For example, a general discharge means the service member can no longer apply for a position in the armed force.

Additionally, some employers may view a general discharge as a negative mark on a service member’s record. If anything, a general discharge is often falsely viewed as a dishonorable discharge, potentially making it difficult to obtain security clearances.

3. Other Than Honorable Discharge

Definition and Eligibility

An other than honorable discharge (OTH) is issued to service members who have engaged in serious misconduct or have repeatedly failed to meet the military’s standards for personal performance and conduct.

Some reasons that may result in an OTH discharge include drug use, insubordination, repeated absences without leave, committing a serious crime, or engaging in activities that bring discredit to the military.

Effects of an Other Than Honorable Discharge

An OTH discharge is the most serious type of discharge a service member can receive. Those with an OTH discharge are generally not eligible for veteran benefits, and their future job prospects may be severely limited – at the very least, federal employment opportunities are off the table.

A member with an impeding OTH will lose all your enlistment bonuses, even if they have yet to be discharged. Moreover, an OTH discharge can negatively affect a service member’s ability to obtain a security clearance or firearms license.

Unfortunately, an OTH offers no advantages or benefits to speak of.

4. Bad Conduct Discharge


Definition and Eligibility

A Bad Conduct Discharge (BCD) is a type of military discharge given as punishment for a court-martial conviction. Enlisted service members and officers with less than six years of service are eligible for a BCD.

Behaviors that may lead to a BCD include drug abuse, assault, theft, insubordination, and other actions that violate military law. These behaviors show a lack of discipline and respect for military authority and may be punished with a BCD. In any case, members are highly likely to receive a BCD if they have spent time incarcerated.

Consequences of a Bad Conduct Discharge

A BCD is a serious mark on a service member’s record and can have drastic consequences. Individuals with a BCD are ineligible for many veteran benefits, such as the GI Bill and VA healthcare.

They may also face difficulty finding civilian employment and may be disqualified from certain government jobs or security clearances. Those with a BCD may be barred from possessing firearms as well.

5. Dishonorable Discharge


Definition and Eligibility

A Dishonorable Discharge (DD) is the most serious military discharge and is given as punishment for the most serious offenses. Here is the military dishonorable discharge list of unacceptable behaviors:

  • Fraud
  • Desertion
  • Treason
  • Espionage
  • Sexual Assault
  • Murder

Consequences of a Dishonorable Discharge


A Marines dishonorable discharge or other service branches is a permanent mark on a service member’s record and has significant consequences.

Dishonorably discharged individuals are not eligible for any veteran benefits and are often excluded from civilian employment opportunities, particularly federal employment. The stigma associated with a dishonorable discharge may also impact personal and social relationships.

Dishonorably discharged members are also barred from receiving civilian government benefits, such as federal student loans and unemployment benefits. They are also banned from owning firearms.

Understanding the Consequences of Different Discharges


How Different Discharges Affect Veterans’ Benefits and Job Opportunities

Different types of discharges have different consequences for veterans’ benefits and job opportunities. Honorable discharges are highly valued and entitle veterans to many benefits, such as VA healthcare, education assistance, and employment opportunities.

On the other hand, BCDs and DDs carry significant consequences and can negatively impact job prospects and access to benefits.

Appealing a Discharge Status Military

Service members who receive a discharge they believe is unjust or inaccurate may appeal their status. The process for appealing a discharge generally involves submitting a request to the appropriate military branch for review and may require legal assistance.

Resources for Veterans Seeking Assistance with Discharge Status

Veterans seeking assistance with their discharge status may contact the Veterans Benefits Administration or seek legal assistance from organizations such as the Veterans Legal Institute or the Military Veterans Advocacy Program.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can an individual upgrade their discharge status?

Yes, an individual can apply to have their discharge upgraded through the Board of Correction for Military Records (BCMR) or the Discharge Review Board (DRB). However, the process can be challenging, and approval is not guaranteed.

General discharge vs honorable discharge, what is the difference?

A general discharge is given to a service member who did not meet all the expectations and standards of conduct and performance.

On the other hand, an honorable discharge is given to those who have served their country with distinction and met or exceeded the standards of conduct and performance.

What can employers ask veterans about their type of discharge from the military?

They can ask for the veteran’s service dates, rank, tasks, pay rate, training type, etc. In addition, they can run checks on the veterans’ DD-214 for details, such as the military discharge codes, if the veteran consents to releasing their form.

Does a veteran’s discharge type affect his/her ability to re-enlist?

Yes. Those with an honorable discharge and general under honorable discharge can re-enlist if they want to continue their military career. However, those discharged from Army and other service branches with an OTH, BCD, or DD cannot re-enlist.


In conclusion, military discharge status is a critical aspect of a veteran’s life. Different types of military discharges have their own set of benefits and limitations.

While honorable discharges are highly valued and entitle veterans to many benefits, BCDs and DDs carry serious consequences and can negatively impact personal and professional life. It is essential to understand the eligibility requirements and consequences associated with each type.

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