Understanding The Types of Discharge in the Military

On average, the U.S. military discharges about 50,000 service members each year, with around 85% of them receiving an honorable discharge. Some receive a different type of discharge based on their performance and conduct during service.

Accounting for another portion of military discharges are administrative discharges, typically for reasons not related to misconduct or criminal behavior. But what is an administrative discharge, and what is its purpose for military members? It is an involuntary discharge of a US service member from their branch of the military, and it includes administrative separations and medical discharges due to reasons such as failure to meet medical or physical standards, administrative convenience, or unsatisfactory performance.

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The effects of this discharge also depend on the conduct and service record of the service member. For service members facing administrative discharge, you have rights and options, including the possibility of appealing the decision or getting assistance from military legal counsel. Each type of discharge in the military has its own weight and implications, affecting not just the end of service but also future opportunities.

Honorable Discharge

Receiving an honorable discharge from the military signifies your exemplary service and dedication. This type of discharge is granted to those who’ve met or exceeded the standards of military conduct and performance. An honorable discharge opens up various opportunities for veterans, such as access to VA benefits, educational programs, and employment opportunities. It reflects positively on your time in the military, showing that you served with honor and fulfilled your duties with integrity.

Having an honorable discharge on your record is a point of pride and distinction, a valuable asset as you transition back to civilian life, and it is often seen as a testament to your character and reliability. It demonstrates to future employers and institutions that you have a strong work ethic, discipline, and commitment to your responsibilities.

General Discharge

Receiving a general discharge from the military indicates that your service didn’t meet the highest standards expected by the military. This may result from various reasons, such as failure to meet performance and conduct standards that are required for an honorable discharge. While a general discharge isn’t as severe as a dishonorable discharge, it still signifies that there were issues during your military service that fell below expectations.

With a general discharge, you may encounter some limitations in terms of benefits and services compared to those who receive an honorable discharge. For example, you may be ineligible for certain veterans’ benefits, like the GI Bill or VA healthcare. Prospective employers may also view a general discharge less favorably than an honorable discharge.

The consequences of a general discharge may impact your post-military life. But you still have the option of seeking guidance from a veterans’ support network or counselor, which can be helpful in handling the challenges associated with this type of discharge.

Other Than Honorable Discharge

If your military service didn’t meet the expected standards but wasn’t dishonorable, you may receive an Other Than Honorable discharge. It is more severe than a general discharge and can have serious consequences for your post-military life. An Other Than Honorable discharge is often given for misconduct or failure to meet military standards but doesn’t rise to the level of a dishonorable discharge.

Receiving an Other Than Honorable discharge can lead to the loss of certain benefits, including the GI Bill for education, VA healthcare, and other veterans’ benefits. It may also have an impact on future employment opportunities, as many employers inquire about military discharge status during the hiring process.

It is important to understand the reasons for receiving an other-than-honorable discharge and to seek assistance if needed. There are resources available to help veterans upgrade their discharge status if they believe it is unjust or if they need support in transitioning to civilian life.

Bad Conduct Discharge

A bad conduct discharge is a punitive discharge given to military personnel for serious offenses committed during their service. Less severe than a dishonorable discharge but still carries serious consequences. If you receive a bad conduct discharge, you may lose certain benefits and face challenges when transitioning back to civilian life.

A bad conduct discharge is issued as a result of criminal conduct, such as theft, assault, or drug offenses. Offenses such as insubordination, disobedience, or other serious breaches of military discipline can also result in its issuance. While a bad conduct discharge may not carry the same stigma as a dishonorable discharge, it can still impact your future opportunities, including employment prospects and eligibility for certain benefits.

If you find yourself facing the possibility of a bad conduct discharge, seek legal advice and understand the implications of this type of discharge on your military record and future endeavors.

Dishonorable Discharge

A dishonorable discharge is the most serious type of discharge and is typically reserved for cases involving serious misconduct or criminal offenses. If you receive a dishonorable discharge, you’ll lose all military benefits, including access to healthcare, education, and veterans’ services. This type of discharge is often accompanied by a court-martial and a criminal conviction, which can have a heavy impact on your civilian life as well.

Having a dishonorable discharge on your record can affect your ability to find employment, obtain security clearances, and even vote in some states. It has a strong stigma in society and can permanently damage your reputation. It’s always crucial to understand the gravity of the actions that can lead to a dishonorable discharge and to seek help and support if you’re facing disciplinary issues in the military.


Understanding the different types of discharge in the military is necessary for all service members and veterans. Each type of discharge carries different implications for benefits, reenlistment opportunities, and future employment prospects.

It’s important to be aware of the criteria for each type of discharge and the potential consequences it may bring. By being informed, you can handle the complexities of military service better and ensure that you receive the appropriate recognition for your service.

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