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Types of military discharge

Updated April 17, 2017

"Military discharge" refers to the terms under which service members are released from the terms of their service obligation. The five types of military discharge range from honourable to dishonourable; terms of members' discharges can dictate many factors of their post-military lives, including whether they are eligible to re-enlist or receive military veteran's benefits. The type of discharge can even affect civilian employers' decision to hire them.

Honourable Discharge

Honourable discharges go to service members who leave the military after serving their required time and have met all performance requirements expected of them. Those who do not complete their full contracted time of service can also receive an honourable discharge so long as they do not leave the military due to misconduct. Additionally, soldiers who have had minor administrative level offences on their record can still receive an honourable discharge. Veterans discharged honourably are entitled to full veteran's benefits unless otherwise specified.

General Under Honorable Conditions Discharge

General discharge is reserved for parting service members who may have had honourable service but have separated under terms of nonjudicial conduct for reasons such as job performance-related issues or misdemeanour-type offences such as drug offences. While general discharge is not classified as dishonourable, nor does it require a judicial hearing, it is also not classified as an honourable discharge. This distinction can preclude veterans from receiving benefits under such programs as the GI Bill, which often require veterans to have an honourable discharge to collect these benefits.

Under Other Than Honorable Conditions Discharge

Service members separating from the military under unfavourable terms may be discharged under other than honourable conditions. These terms denote a termination due to negligence in the veteran's job, security violations or other specific offences. This type of discharge, along with honourable and general discharges, comes from the administrative level, decided by a member's superiors only. Veterans receiving an other than honourable discharge are barred from re-enlistment and from collecting most veteran's benefits.

Bad Conduct Discharge

Members leaving the service under conditions of grievously poor job performance, attitude or altercations receive a bad conduct discharge. Unlike general or other than honourable discharges, bad conduct discharges require a court martial. Veterans receiving bad conduct discharges are not entitled to veteran's benefits.

Dishonourable Discharge

The second level of court martial charge, dishonourable discharges go to service members who commit major felony-level crimes. Aside from the implications of a court martial sentencing, dishonourable discharges bar the veteran from receiving benefits and can also impact future civilian employers' desire to hire the veteran due to past military offences.

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About the Author

Marcus Scott has been writing on international politics, local news and culture since 2004. He has written articles, op-eds, columns and edited for student organization presses and blogs, including the Roosevelt Institution Defense and Diplomacy blog. In 2005 and 2006 Scott attended the Journalism Education Association national conferences. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in international relations from the University of California, Davis.