Types of Military Discharge

There are five types of military discharge, and every single military member experiences one of them. The quality of one’s active duty service determines the type of discharge he or she receives. The five military discharges are general, honorable, other than honorable, bad conduct and dishonorable.

General Discharge

General denotes that a service member completed his or her service with less than honorable circumstances during duty or upon discharge. Conditions such as illness, injury or other determinants lead to a general discharge. An unacceptable behavior such as drug abuse initiates a general discharge as well.

A commander makes known the reason for a general discharge in writing. People tend to equate a general discharge with an honorable one.  However, general discharges actually deem many veterans ineligible for certain benefits such as the GI Bill.

Honorable Discharge

Honorable is a like a grade of A plus. The service member completed his or her duty with admirable personal and professional conduct. Ones with an honorable discharge receive full benefits.  They also have an easier time finding employment since an honorable discharge reflects well on a resume.

Bad Conduct

Bad Conduct discharge is a punishment for a military crime. It results in confinement to a military prison for a short period of time.  No benefits are available to veterans with a bad conduct discharge.

Dishonorable Discharge

A dishonorable discharge is also a punitive action against a military member. Serious offenses such as murder or desertion of one’s duty will cause a court martial to order a dishonorable discharge.

Like a convicted felon, veterans with a dishonorable discharge do not receive many privileges to benefits, possession of firearms and so on.  They are ostracized from the military community and will have a hard time finding employment.

Other Than Honorable (OTH) Discharge

A judgment of OTH discharge occurs when a military member is in trouble with the civilian court system, for reasons like a felony conviction leading to imprisonment. OTH is the most severe of the administrative discharges because people with OTH are banned from ever reenlisting into the army or any other part of the Armed Forces. OTH recipients do not receive VA healthcare or most benefits provided through the VA.

Photo thanks to familymwr under creative common license on Flickr.

48 thoughts on “Types of Military Discharge”

  1. Meka, I’m afraid there might be some sort of confusion. “Undetermined” might be modifying some other aspect of the discharge, but by itself, “undetermined” is not a classification for a discharge.

  2. My son is bing discharged from the USAF beause he did not pass a written tets for special forces while at tech school. Will he be able to use anything from the V.A. to help in his education. He was in the USAF since Feb.2011 til end of June 2011?. Thank you

  3. I am a psychologist who does many evaluations for a variety of purposes (Social Secuirty Disability, Medicaid, etc.) I am often told by vets that they have Honorable and Medical discharges. I have tried to look this up, as I had some idea from a long time ago that it would not be both. From what I am reading, they may be referred to a general discharge (for medical reasons) and that a general discharge may or may not be denoted as honorable. Am I mistaken? I would really like to understand this better, so that any conclusions I draw from this and the other data I collect will not be in error.


    1. Lois,

      I am glad that you are making an effort to better understand the system. Hopefully that will inspire some readers to know that there are some doctors who do actually care about their well being.

      You are correct in that it won’t be both. The case of a veteran saying that he or she has received both Honorable and Medical is most likely the result of confusion and no one bothering to explain the semantics of the words on the DD 214.

      A medical discharge is not a general discharge. The best example I can give for an illness discharge is for a trainee to become sick with an illness that takes a long enough time for them to recover that it would be impossible to continue training. Once recovered, that trainee usually has the ability to re-enter training, starting at the beginning with a new training unit. If such an illness were to occur to an active duty service member, they would be treated at a military hospital or other appropriate facility, not discharged for recovery.

      A medical discharge is one in which the service member develops a disability (or experiences an injury that creates the disability) from which medical doctors feel there is no reasonable recovery, and the service member is prevented from reasonably carrying out his or her duties and responsibilities. A request is put in with all medical documentation and a review board goes over the request and all evidence. From this a service member can then be granted a medical discharge.

      The reason for the confusion on a discharge being both medical and honorable is that most medical discharges are “under honorable conditions.” In fact, I think that is the exact wording on my own DD 214 “Medical – Under Honorable Conditions.” So a medical discharge is not an Honorable Discharge, but unless specified (for example, under other than honorable) there is nothing dishonorable about a medical discharge.

      I hope that clarifies things for you. Please ask any other questions you may have.

  4. I reenlisted twice and my third term was bad conduct. Is there any reason why my DD214 classifies my whole 11 years as bad conduct? I’m wondering if I’m entitled to a military funeral being that I served honorably for 2 terms.

  5. George, no, when a person is discharged under a bad conduct discharge, they are bared from enlisting again.

    As for your situation with two “terms” honorable: Because a reenlistment simply extends your term of enlistment, the entire 11 years is viewed as one chunk, not as multiple different chunks. It is because of this that your dd214 classifies the entire 11 years as bad conduct. Additionally, this disqualifies you for benefits.

    1. I went awol and was denied benefits with an OTH discharge and was told the samething which is wrong. Please refer to the specific provisions of 38 CFR 3.13(c) 1-3 and further explanation in M21-1, ch. 11, para. 11.01i. You get your benefits. File a cue claim with your VARO for benefits.

    2. beebe,
      You are wrong about it’s an extension. When you reenlist it is a conditional discharge. As long as the soldier completed that enlistment by te date he or she enlisted without incident it honorable and qualifying for benefits. The va must look to see if there other enlistments that was honorable and qualify for benefits, therefore dropping the bcd and use the prior enlistment.

      1. Charles,
        I am interested to know if you were able to apply for and receive benefits based off an earlier enlistment. The paragraph that you cite does say that a re-enlistment is a conditional discharge. (paragraph a). The following paragraph (b) says the following:

        (b) Except as provided in paragraph
        (c) of this section, the entire period of service under the circumstances stated in paragraph (a) of this section constitutes one period of service and entitlement will be determined by the character of the final termination of such period of active service except that, for death pension purposes, § 3.3(b)(3) and (4) is controlling as to basic entitlement when the conditions prescribed therein are met.

        So unfortunately yes, the DD214 is correct in characterizing the entire period of service as “bad conduct.”

        1. Audrey Beebe,
          Sorry I have not been back on this site. At this time the VA has deferred my request for an earlier effective date for futher development. When I got out I recieved my educational benefits. When I applied for an EED before with the same evidence it was denied very quickly. Also this time my TVC represenative gave me the phone number to my congressman so I called. Later this week I will be calling Washington D.C..

        2. Audrey Beebe,
          Yes, I did receive my educational benefits GI Bill, and my certificate for buying a house. Also the VA suspended my educational benefits, and after contacting Muskogee, OK the VA had to restore my benefits. Hopes this answers your question it is a long process. I guess that i am one of the lucky ones that had a TVC rep. that look at my whole c-file and not just my DD-214. He also had worked for TVC for over 25 years, and prior service member.

  6. Would a military funeral be considered as a benefit? This is what confuses me a little. My 11 years are considered as BCD, but I have AFCM, AFAM, Good Conduct Medal along with being a Desert Storm Vet prior to the term of BCD. What regulation governs this I’m wondering. Seems as if I served my country during wartime prior to the BCD term, I should get an American Flag when I die.

  7. Harold Commons

    What effect will a “hardship release” have on ones future? What kind of discharge is that classified as? Anyone know anything about these types of early release from service?

    1. I guess I’m not sure what you’re asking? If you are referring to having your discharge changed after you have already left the service then you should contact a review board from your respective branch of service.

    2. I have the same question. I do not have any civilian charges at all other then a speed ticket. I cant find any answers to our question. I also want to rejoin but i guess i can not.

  8. I am trying to determine what a tolerable discharge is. My great-grandfather’s union army papers have his discharge type as tolerable and I can find nothing about what this means.

  9. My question is similar to Pauls. What kind of discharge is it when you are in AIT and didn’t pass the PT test? How does that affect the GI Bill?

    1. Robby Robinson

      You will get what’s called an entry level separation which essentially means you were never in the military. Further, you will NOT have any GI BILL benefits. There are minimum active duty requirements for GI BILL eligibility (an exception would be a service connected disability incurred or aggravated in the line of Active duty) Basic OSUT, or AIT does NOT count towards eligibility

  10. What would it be if they are told they will probably lose their job due to cut backs? They haven’t given us any information other than that, and itll happen march 31

  11. My nephew hit a senior chief and he said he was discharged supposidly with a 6 month probationary period,is this possible,his uncle was in the Navy for 26 years and has never heard of such a thing.

  12. I was discharged in ’07 with a medical under honorable or vise versa. How long do I have or can I even get any benifits. I was discharged in 2nd phase of marine boot camp. By the way thank you all for your sevice.

  13. I was discharge with an undesirable discharge from the Marine Corp.In 1974.I had an injury in 1970 while in Boot Camp.Do I qualify for medical benifits.I am having major problems with the injury I sustain while in the military.

  14. I served active duty for 3 years honorable discharged while i was reenlisting and if im to recieve another type of discharge will i still be elgible for benefits like the gi bill.

  15. was discharged in 1952 with an undesirable discharge. military did not beleive in post combat trauma i was wounded in korea and served my entire stint there. i was 17 years old when i enlisted to save our country from communism. and ended up as a drunk and misfit for about 6 years. the appeals board is not fair

    1. Frank…first of all ‘thank you for your service’. Please resubmit your claim for ‘post tramatic stress disorder’ through the VA. This is now more recognized as a disability. It will be a tough journey and require alot of persistance but it can be done. You are derserve to receive every benefit you fought to preserve. Contact your nearest VFW for further information and assistance. Good Luck!

  16. Hi was wondering how hard it would be to get back in the military with a general discharge for getting hurt in training but i sure ive had enough time to heal its been 2 years since my injury thanks

  17. I was ill a lot when I was in the Army Reserve. I did not have transportation to get to drill. I was issued an OTH discharge. My question is: Will I be able to claim my years or use my military years as experience on an application for employment?

  18. I have an honorable discharge in the USN from 1975-01/1981, I went back into the USN 9 months later in 1981. I have another honorable
    for that 4 year enlistment. Now my next enlistment I got a OTH
    for a positive on a urine test. Can I use my original discharge in
    01/1981 for my VA benefits..

  19. This website is wrong in saying a person will not receive VA medical and educational benefits with an OTH. I have an OTH and I am using my 9-11 GI Bill and I regularly go and receive VA Health Care at the local VA Hospital. The VA makes a case by case determination on OTH discharges, and not you. You people who created this website should be ashamed of yourselves for putting out wrong information.

    1. Hector i was wondering if I have an OTH discharge on a case that i had no conviction to? why Will they not give me an honorable discharge? I ask this due to a Court Martial I was in 2009. They Gave me an Assault and battery Just because i was there and it has nothing to do with the case its self i was not charged with any of the 3 counts they where looking for and nor did i assault anyone which shows on the report. they up graded my bad conduct to an OTH but I dont understand how they did that …… dropped all my charges due to nothing found on me and then let me out with the OTH. I really need some help on this because i feel i was treated unfair and was not given the right discharge at all. I can understand if i was charged with something but i was charged with nothing that was Stated in the courtmartial, and have no idea where the assault and battery plays a part in the case at all.

  20. I received a court martail conviction for disrespect to a SNCO for having my hands in my pocket and for as crazy as it sounds i was still found guilty i wanted to know if this is a military specific conviciotn and will affect me trying to get a job in the civilian world when i get out? because im sure theres no way i would ever go to court and be found guilty for having my hands in my pocket in a state court.

  21. I just got back from tech school and I lost my bmt certificate but I got the one from tech school. Can I get discharged for not having it when I returned to my base. Iam in the Air Force Reserve

  22. My son just went to bmt army. In for 2 wks, he called and let me know that he was getting out. Said was given a chance to get out if didn’t want to be there? Is there such a thing? What type of discharge or will it be an “entry level sepration”. since he never served and will he be bared from ever joining the military or if there’s a draft maybe?

  23. My son went to bmt and now he’s coming home it has been only two weeks he said that he was given to option to get out if wanted to. Does this fall under ELS and if so is he barred from ever volunteering in other branch?

  24. My son join the navy in 2002. He was there until 2005 when he was separted from the navy. His older brother wanted him to go into the navy after he enlisted. Things were going great for his while he was there.But in 2004 he lose his brother,my son on a job related accident. My son took it very hard because he and his brother were very close.therewas aguy that was dishorable discharge from the navy gave a party one night which my son attend. The guy had weed at the party and everyone at the party including my son was smoking. My son not using good judgement he is good kid he just did not think clear. I’m pretty sure he had his brother on his mind.He and his crew members drown in the Mississippi River in Louisana. I was just wondering if he could join the navy again or another branch.He just having a hard time trying to find his way. Sign a mother love for her son

  25. Grandson failed ‘marksmanship’ twice in Army boot camp. What type of discharge will that be…and, will he be able to sign up for another branch of Military service? Thank you

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.