Discharges from the Military: Types of military discharges and What They Mean for Veterans


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Majority of active-duty service personnel get a military discharge before leaving the military.

Each discharge is under one of the two categories of discharge:

  •  Administrative, 
  •  Punitive.

Your discharge status can influence your benefits from the veteran affairs. A military discharge lawyer can help you understand each status. They can check your military discharge documents. Then decide whether you are eligible for military discharge upgrade. Understanding each state and how it could influence you is crucial.

Who is a veteran?

Veterans by law as everyone who served well in the armed forces for their nation. Members of the National Guard and Reserves are ineligible for veterans benefits. Officers are entitled to VA benefits based on their court martial charges. 

Types of military discharge

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The court martial law can discharge military officers for different military discharge reasons

  1. Military General Discharge
  1. Honourable Discharge
  1. Entry-Level Separation
  1. Other Than Honourable Discharge
  1. Military Medical Discharge
  1. Bad Conduct Discharge
  1. Dismissal (Officer Discharge)
  1. Dishonourable Discharge
  1. Military Hardship discharge
  1. Honourable Discharge

The highest possible discharge for a military member is an honourable discharge. It signifies that members of the military did their jobs well.  They also finished their terms of enlistment.

A service soldier who has received an honourable discharge is eligible for:

  • VA home loan,
  •  pension, and
  •  health insurance.
  1. Military general discharge

It is not associated with the negative discharge label of a dishonourable discharge.

It is  given to personnel because they have performed well. It’s not a “bad discharge”. They might have marks on their record that stops them from getting an honourable release. 

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A service member who has a general discharge may have performed well. They may have also engaged in wrongdoing or failed to adjust to life in the military. Veterans under this discharge get VA benefits.

  1. Entry level separation discharge

An entry-level separation discharge rather than an honourable or dishonourable discharge.  Military personnel who must leave the service during the first 180 days get this discharge classification.

If a new recruit is unable to finish basic training  they may be subject to an entry-level separation or dismissal. If a recruit has served fewer than 180 days, they are only eligible for an entry-level separation. They will not be eligible for VA benefits. 

A person must follow the correct procedures before serving the separation for there to be an entry-level separation.

  1. Other than honourable discharge

Its discharge is not as respected as an honourable or general discharge. This designation of “bad discharge” is often for service members who have the integrity standards of an armed services member. Being found guilty of adultery while serving are a few circumstances that could result in this kind of discharge.

This discharge is  given by the military to personnel who violate regulations or whose acts do not need legal action. It is unusual for veterans with an OTH discharge to get VA benefits due to the circumstances surrounding it. Military officers dismissed under this discharge will not get veterans benefits.

  1. Military medical discharge

It will occur due to various military medical discharge reasons such as:

  • ailments,
  • illnesses, or
  • disabilities.

A medical discharge may result from a condition that got worse during service. The disease or injury may have developed while the person was serving in the military.  It could have prevented them from performing their duty. After the discharge, they will get military medical discharge benefits.

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An officer can get discharged on military discharge for mental health if they lack a stable mental health. 

Depending on the details of the ailment, a medical discharge is a discharge that is often not seen as bad on a person’s record. 

Veterans’ benefits can  be applied for by discharged military personnel. Before providing veteran benefits, this program requires a service connection.

  1. Bad conduct discharge

An example of a punitive discharge is a Bad Conduct Discharge. A military person who engages in bad behaviour may receive this discharge.  It has a smaller penalty than a dishonourable discharge.

One of the possible grounds for a dismissal for bad behaviour is a pattern of disobeying instructions. People who earn this discharge have been imprisoned. As either civilians or members of the military. The discharge reflects out of sorts on a person’s record. It will keep them from being eligible for veteran benefits. They are not entitled for VA benefits.

  1. Dismissal 

They do not get a Bad conduct discharge or a dishonourable discharge for wrongdoings, but they still could get a bad discharge. Instead, they can be released from their service by what is called a dismissal or officer discharge.

For the officer’s eligibility for veterans benefits, dismissal has the same weight as a BCD or dishonourable discharge.

When an officer is discharged, their rank may be reduced to the most recent rank they finished while also losing their eligibility for perks. If the officer has been court-martialed, this occurs.

  1. Discharged with Dishonor

The form of discharge with the biggest repercussions is a dishonourable one. This discharge results from conduct or activities that are in violation of military regulations, such as

  • rape,
  • murder, or
  • absence from duty.
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This discharge results from a court-martial process. Like other kinds of discharge, it is recorded on a service member’s record.

With this discharge, a service member is no longer eligible for VA benefits and cannot own firearms or ammunition. Federal background checks may reveal the discharge, making it difficult for a veteran to land a job.

Veterans who have this discharge could be banned from:

  • voting,
  • employment with the government,
  • obtaining a loan, and
  • receiving government benefits.

Dishonourable or bad conduct discharge recipients may be eligible for some VA medical benefits. Only after discharge attorneys have petitioned for them and a VA officer has assessed the case.

A person with a dishonourable discharge is also a veteran. The only difference is they will not get VA benefits.  The status of a person’s discharge will determine if they will get veterans benefits or not. 


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Praveen Saraswat
Praveen was born in India. He began writing in 2018, he lives in Agara. He has contributed lots of articles to Scoopearth and another website and the first time he published an article at Scoopearth