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What You Need To Know About Other-Than-Honorable Discharge

Good to keep in mind when looking for a job!
By Contributing Authors

Unfortunately, all too often I am asked what members should do if they are discharged with something besides an honorable discharge (like general, other-than-honorable, etc.).

a man jumping out of an airplane

First, let us address the different types of discharges:

Honorable Discharge

If a military service member received a good or excellent rating for their service time, they will be discharged from the military honorably. An honorable military discharge is a form of administrative discharge.

General Discharge

If a service member’s performance is satisfactory but the individual failed to meet all expectations of conduct, the discharge is considered a general discharge. To receive a general discharge from the military, there has to be some form of nonjudicial punishment to correct unacceptable military behavior. A general military discharge is a form of administrative discharge. 

Other-Than-Honorable Conditions Discharge

The most severe type of military administrative discharge is other-than-honorable conditions. Examples of actions that could lead to an other-than-honorable discharge include security violations, use of violence, conviction by a civilian court with a sentence including prison time, or being found guilty of adultery in a divorce hearing (this list is not a definitive list; these are only examples). In most cases, veterans who receive an other-than-honorable discharge cannot re-enlist in the Armed Forces or reserves, except under very rare circumstances. Veterans benefits are not usually available to those discharged through this type of discharge.

veteran meeting other veterans

Bad Conduct Discharge (BCD)

The bad conduct discharge is only passed on to enlisted military members. It is given by a court-martial due to punishment for bad conduct. A bad conduct discharge is often preceded by a time in military prison. Virtually all veteran’s benefits are forfeited if discharged due to bad conduct. 

Dishonorable Discharge

If the military considers a service member’s actions to be reprehensible, the general court-martial can determine if a dishonorable discharge is in order. Murder and sexual assault are examples of situations which would result in a dishonorable discharge. If someone is dishonorably discharged from the military, they are not allowed to own firearms, according to U.S. federal law. Military members who receive a dishonorable discharge forfeit all military and veterans benefits and may have a difficult time finding work in the civilian sector.

Officer Discharge

Commissioned officers cannot receive bad conduct discharges or a dishonorable discharge, nor can they be reduced in rank by a court-martial. If an officer is discharged by a general court-martial, they receive a dismissal notice. This is the same as a dishonorable discharge. Did you just get out of the military? Click the banner below for our Mother Of All Transition Guides for what to do next.

So Now What?

Typically the simple answer is to not bring up the type of discharge that was given. Employers don’t often know to ask this and the type of discharge should be used as a reference only. Due to legal issues surrounding Equal Employment Opportunities and related laws, one should be cautious in the interview process regardless. It is generally illegal to ask which type of discharge a military veteran received. This may change whether or not an applicant received an honorable or general discharge (veteran’s preference is a different story). You can compare this to asking if one is a U.S. citizen in the interview process.

Employers should note that even if the veteran did not receive one of these types of discharges, it doesn’t necessarily mean they were discharged for poor conduct (it could have been a medical discharge or other administrative discharge). Typical questions include the branch of military service, the period of service, rank at time of separation, type of training, leadership, work experience, qualifications, and certifications. Not discharge.

Employer and DD 214

The member must be prepared to answer the questions. They should have their “elevator pitch” about their career progression and be prepared to provide references of character if needed. Note that government positions are more likely to ask for your DD-214 and inquire further on this area than a typical civilian employee.

There are various situations where you may be eligible to apply to have your military discharge upgraded. You must apply to have your discharge upgraded by downloading DD Form 293. Application for the Review of Discharge or Dismissal from the Armed Forces, submit the form to the Discharge Review Board within 15 years of your discharge and WAIT. If your discharge was over 15 years ago, you must request a change to your military records. 

Don’t get yourself in a position where you are receiving a discharge that is unfavorable (despite medical or other conditions). If this does happen to you, then it is best to seek positions where it is not the priority item to be asked. Think about those roles outside the government where you would benefit. Also note that if drugs or convictions were involved, this does add an extra layer to your career endeavor.

No matter how you exit the military, take time to determine the industry you want to be in and the jobs associated with that industry to ensure you’re prepared for civilian life.

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2019-03-01T15:23:18-04:00

45 Comments

  1. Can we get more details ? June 7, 2016 at 12:14 - Reply

    I am still at a lost of understanding. I received a “UNDER HONORABLE CONDITIONS DIDCHARGE” , and there is no explanation or description . PLEASE elaborate

  2. connie June 15, 2016 at 07:30 - Reply

    how do I find out if someone was dis honered from yhe navy?

  3. RAUL PEREZ July 12, 2016 at 02:56 - Reply

    Hi I served in the army national guard while looking through old military papers ran across one that state I was discharge from component: READY RESERVE TYPE OF DISCHARGE HONORABLE. dose this mean I fulfill my military service and is there any benefit in having this document Any information would be greatly appreciated. Respectfully submitted

  4. Marvin Marble November 9, 2016 at 22:00 - Reply

    Hello my name is Marvin Marble I got a Other Than Honorable discharge do to a drug problem I got while in the MARINE Corps I had a operation on my head in the VA hospital IN Chicago I wanted to know if i had any other benefits separation code is JKK1 if so what do I need to do Thank you Marvin Marble

  5. Donald Sumo November 30, 2016 at 19:27 - Reply

    So does general discharge shows up on your background check?

  6. Kaven Jay Bowen December 18, 2016 at 23:02 - Reply

    Kaven Bowen US Navy 441-66-2059
    I received an honorable discharge from active duty. If I received a service-connected disability, may I receive VA Compensation if while in active duty I also received 2 Willful Misconducts ?

  7. Brandon Lee January 10, 2017 at 19:10 - Reply

    This article is inaccurate. You need to recheck your sources, if you had any.

  8. Amanda January 20, 2017 at 23:48 - Reply

    My ex is being discharged as an unsatisfactory participant from the army reserves due to going awol to hide from the court. He owes $10k in child support and he was served with papers right before he went missing. How will he be discharged? He served 4 years active before going into the reseves. How will his discharge affect his future job hunt? He will eventually have to get himself together and start paying what he owes.

  9. Terry Lee Brown January 25, 2017 at 16:48 - Reply

    I received a chapter 10 discharge they told me it would become a general discharge in 6 mos after leaving the Army l had no bad time I was air assault qualified I don’t understand the reason for this type of discharge

  10. John c james January 28, 2017 at 21:28 - Reply

    I was voted honor man in the navy and went thru half of seal training and made a conscious decision to leave. It has been over 30 years, can it be commute to a general discharge after all this time? If so how. I am a true patriot and I have a copy of my proceedings. Thank you

  11. Joshua Rawls January 30, 2017 at 23:28 - Reply

    Can i additional information on other than honorable discharge because paid I for my GI bill and never received benefits

  12. Ken Kloostra February 8, 2017 at 16:19 - Reply

    If a vet has a less than an honorable discharge, does he still receive a DD214?

  13. STUCKIT TOME SOLDIER April 12, 2017 at 20:00 - Reply

    THE U.S GOVERNMENT SUCKS

  14. Bryan Ivey June 13, 2017 at 07:25 - Reply

    Can still buy a gun and vote with an oth discharge

  15. Lance Miller July 9, 2017 at 22:16 - Reply

    I was discharged from the Marines 37 years ago with an other-than-honorable discharge. Bottom line is too much fighting sounds funny but that’s the deal I’ve been promoted to private four times made it back to Corporal just to be busted back down to private but that’s besides the point is not why I’m trying to find out anything I just want to know if I can go to my son’s graduation out there and Fort Leonard Wood if I would be allowed to get on the base to go see him graduate

  16. Tre November 18, 2017 at 00:20 - Reply

    How hard is it to get a good job with an other than honorable discharge

  17. George November 19, 2017 at 02:16 - Reply

    I received an OTH discharge after 24 years of Army Reserve. I did get my 20 year letter so I know I qualify for retirement pay. My question is can I get a retirement ID card?

  18. Armando Trevino December 28, 2017 at 22:48 - Reply

    If I had an OTH administrative discharge am I still a veteran? I know I don’t qualify for benefits but am I still considered a veteran, can I get a Veteran ID card just to be able to show that I served my country

  19. Russell mitchem July 16, 2018 at 11:22 - Reply

    I recieved an honorable discharge,not because I was stellar or something special, but because I chose to get the job done and move on..it’s hard for those serving now with high stress and meds given due to PTSD,actually makes symptons worse,the problems lie when they get caught using canabis instead..therefore recieving OTH discharge…

  20. BriAnna Williams July 24, 2018 at 06:40 - Reply

    Are you still able to find work in the civilian world with a OTH discharge? Will it have a negative effect on me financially?

  21. Thomas Burkett February 8, 2019 at 05:08 - Reply

    I would like to upgrade my discharge after 15 years is this possible

  22. Asking for a friend March 25, 2019 at 10:17 - Reply

    How do you upgrade from a less than honorable discharge due to substance use?

  23. BARB ABERNETHY March 26, 2019 at 07:27 - Reply

    WE HAVE TRYED TO UPGRADE MY HUSBANDS STATIS 5 TIMES WE HAVENT GOTTEN ANYWHERE VERY DISAPPOINTED. BARB ABERNETHY AND HE CANNOT HEAR BECAUSE OF THE MILITARY AND HE GETS NO COMPINSATION FOR HIS DISABILITY.

  24. Stephanie April 5, 2019 at 08:49 - Reply

    Not it is not, with an other than honorable discharge you have been you can be dicharged (kicked out) for many reasons. These reasons being you conduct, not meeting weight standrads, testing …

  25. joe kuczma April 23, 2019 at 09:57 - Reply

    I am a USMC vet . Due to making a stupid mistake , state side , I was given an OTH discharge . I don’t want any medical or financial benefits , but I would like to be able to carry a military ID for proof of service . I was proud to ware that uniform , but due to my discharge situation , I lost my relationship with my father and brother . I have lived with the shame , regret , embarrassment for over 35 years now . My father and I didn’t speak for the last 23 years of his life . He has been gone now for 11 years , and every day I know I didn’t make him proud . It’s hard when you live life knowing you made a mistake , and now you are nothing .

  26. Victor GARCIA May 18, 2019 at 07:05 - Reply

    Hi my name is Victor GARCIA ..If an other than. Is not dishonorable.. and the GI has a good Record on DD214 than what about. Qualifyng for A VA loan help.. I Was played a prank. And Fall for it.. So.. I deserve it for not whatching out for my self…

  27. Darrell Wayne Roberson June 24, 2019 at 13:26 - Reply

    What should I do if I have an OTH because of Drug/Alcohol use.?

    Note: I was discharged in April 1994.
    I applied for an upgrade 3 yrs ago and was denied an “General Under Honorable Conditions upgrade

  28. Tom July 5, 2019 at 17:21 - Reply

    I see this circumstance so often that I need to get some answers. I met a veteran that has a honorable discharge and a bad conduct discharge. I learned that his first discharge gives him certain benefits. Does he still qualify for veteran’s preference? The odd thing is his DD214 says bad conduct but has one date that makes it look like it was a 10-year enlistment, so how does that make any sense?

  29. Jackie Tolliver July 12, 2019 at 23:42 - Reply

    You just will not answer my very important questions in 1969 my brother was drafted during the Viet Nam conflict yet Several times he went AWOL and came back home even though punishment never helped at all.He was given an undesirable discharge then.I do know president Ford managed to pardon many people for what they did wrong. Question one.do people like that still get to claim they served in the united States army clearly he did not.Question 2 .on memorial day do they also get small flags places on their graves as do those that really did serve? Question 3 .Are they allowed to possess firearms? Question4 . Are they allowed any kind of help like medical a buried from the army or advertise upon death that they served their country United States Army? Can I please just get some clear straight answers I do not want to read hundreds of legal and military papers to find these answers ty for your help.J. Tolliver ohio

  30. Richard Chavez July 24, 2019 at 13:30 - Reply

    I was discriminated by my first sargent.When Ienlisted in the Marine Corp the First thing we were told that there is no discrimination and the only color is green.Now myself and this Sargent had some issues he called me a Wetback which I address him and ask him what did you called Me He came out and Said Wetback!Are you or not I said No there’s one color and it’s green then he’ll broke lose.so I was given a discharge other then honrable.even though I had two other honarables.Will this keep me from getting my benefits for my disability?.

  31. Robert July 31, 2019 at 13:41 - Reply

    I was discharged for marijuana.

  32. Tab August 4, 2019 at 17:04 - Reply

    Above you state ‘Virtually all veteran’s benefits are forfeited if discharged due to bad conduct.’
    What veterans benefits are available?

  33. Edward Bronston September 15, 2019 at 20:55 - Reply

    I have a chapter 10 discharge what all benifits do I qualify for

  34. Rhonda September 21, 2019 at 19:26 - Reply

    Why is there not a program to help those guys who had PTSD or whose wife cheated while on duty. My sons wife also was serving but doing more service and advanced quickly. It crushed his heart that she cheated on him and he drank and while trainign she was screwing sergenats. This is so unfair that the root cause of pain and PTSD has to do with his service and yet they kick him to the curb having served 3 1/2 years.

  35. RAYMOND J WITHERS September 22, 2019 at 10:45 - Reply

    I feel I was unjustly discharged from the army because of prejudice. They asked if we wanted to get out of the service for being AWOL I was drafted I did basic and ait. Then was a holdover for 10 days waiting to go to Vietnam but instead they sent me to Germany I signed up to fight for my country not to play security guard.so they offered the black guy’s ud discharge and gave the white boys general discharges.

  36. gary strickland October 2, 2019 at 16:51 - Reply

    I still don’t understand what I can do, is there a group that can take this task on for me, is there someone I can call, please help

  37. Robert Brooks October 15, 2019 at 10:43 - Reply

    I would like to speak with someone who might know more about this than I do. If I have a Other Than Honorable Discharge can I still become a Firefighter or Polic Officer

  38. Johnnie Childs October 18, 2019 at 18:21 - Reply

    Can I get a lawyer to help me change my brother discharge. Thanks you

  39. Philip Northcutt October 29, 2019 at 01:36 - Reply

    It is important to note that the VA, for benefits purposes, looks at your character of SERVICE, not your character of DISCHARGE. There is a very real and legal difference between the two. A veteran may have served quite honorably during his time in uniform and encounter issues at the time of discharge that can seem disqualifying, but arent. Go to the VA and get your benefits. The Vietnam Era vets finally got better service because the flood of OIF/OEF vets forced the VA’s hand.

  40. Larry Smith November 8, 2019 at 08:39 - Reply

    Can you get a military ID card if you had an other than honorable discharge

  41. Chris Walker December 7, 2019 at 07:52 - Reply

    have in the military or are these assumption based statements

    • Chris Walker December 7, 2019 at 07:53 - Reply

      Have you been in the military or are these assumption based statements

  42. Harriette Blake January 22, 2020 at 02:05 - Reply

    I have a chapter 10 OTH for going AWOL about 30yrs ago & I was married to a retired now deceased SFC. I’m I entitled to any benefit.s?

  43. Gregor Denney January 24, 2020 at 15:48 - Reply

    So, Since I was given an Other than Honorabe in 2006 but have an extensive Record in a Combat Theater, Should this help my upgrade? Now that I’m having kids and settling down , I’m trying to do everything I can to secure a future for them.

  44. Ernie Miller February 5, 2020 at 18:07 - Reply

    Is there such a thing as a 212 discharge?
    Undesirable to Milatary service, that would be Honorable in 6 months?

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