Dishonorable Discharge: Everything You Need to Know

Dishonorable Discharge: Everything You Need to Know

A “dishonorable discharge” is a type of military separation given as a punishment for a serious offense during military service. The opposition of “honorable discharge,” it’s far from the only type of less-than-ideal military discharge a service member can receive.

When someone gets out of the military, they receive a separation document that certifies their military service and also indicates whether their service to the nation was completed satisfactorily. This document, the DD-214, usually lists the dates of service, any commendations or medals received, the reason for separation and the military’s characterization of their service.

This characterization of one’s military service is also known as the type of military discharge. It can be very important later in life to anyone wishing to receive federal or state veterans benefits or special considerations because of their military service. Most medical or disability discharges are characterized as honorable.

For most people, anything other than an honorable or general discharge is considered a “bad paper discharge,” because that one piece of paper (the DD-214) can spell bad news for their future.

Types of Military Discharges

There are five main types of military discharges or separation characterizations:

  1. Honorable — This is the type of discharge a person receives if they complete their contracted obligation with proper military behavior and proficient performance of duty. This includes not running afoul of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
  2. General — Issued when a person shows a pattern of minor misconduct or fails to complete the original service contract. Oftentimes the misconduct isn’t serious enough to be a criminal offense in the civilian world, but it disrupts military discipline and order. This may also be given if the service member leaves the military early for things like physical readiness failure or parenthood.
  3. Other Than Honorable — Given when there is misconduct that could be considered a misdemeanor in the civilian world. Incidents such as drug use, fighting, abuse of position, disobeying an order, etc.
  4. Bad Conduct Discharge (BCD) — Given as a punishment for bad conduct rather than a punishment for serious offenses. It may also be given if someone exhibits a pattern of convictions for misconduct that indicates they are unfit to serve in the military.
  5. Dishonorable Discharge — Given as a punishment for a serious offense. Usually when someone commits a felony-level offense, either in the military or civilian jurisdiction.

You may notice that the bad conduct discharge (BCD) and dishonorable discharges are given as punishment. They are considered punitive discharges, which means they are a legal punishment. As such, they may only be handed down by a court-martial.

An uncharacterized discharge is given to individuals who are discharged before they serve 180 days of military service, this type of discharge is neither honorable or dishonorable. Normally, those who are separated within the first 180 days of service are not eligible for any veterans benefits unless they are injured as a result of their service.

Technically, officers cannot receive a bad conduct or dishonorable discharge. If an officer is convicted in a court-martial, they may be dismissed from the service, or resign for the good of the military, which is effectively the same as receiving a dishonorable discharge.

An Other-Than-Honorable Discharge Can Leave You Stranded

Typically, when they leave service, military members are authorized a final move at government expense. That includes shipment of their household goods, meals and lodging necessary to complete the travel, plus the cost of travel for them and any dependents.

But someone receiving an other-than-honorable discharge will receive a one-way ticket home on the cheapest form of transportation available. They are usually escorted to the main gate of the military installation, relieved of their ID card and given a ticket home with just the clothes on their back and what they can carry. Any personal belongings must either be shipped at their own expense, given away or trashed.

Their dependents, however, may receive the normal travel benefit with the service’s approval.

Effects of a Military Discharge on Civilian Life

For most people, their type of military discharge has very little effect on their later life. There are exceptions, of course.

Some employers, usually law enforcement-, government- or defense-related jobs, pay close attention to your type of discharge; most others don’t. However, someone who has a security clearance and receives a less-than-honorable discharge may lose that clearance, severely limiting their future employment opportunities.

Some states have laws that prevent employers from asking about the type of military discharge an applicant received.

A person who receives an other-than-honorable discharge also loses the right to wear their military uniform in a parade or ceremony; they are not legally a veteran.

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Military Discharge and Veterans Benefits

The most resonating consequence of a military discharge is its effect on veterans benefits. Basically, anything other than an honorable or general discharge puts Department of Veterans Affairs benefits at risk. The VA says that most veterans with discharges that are not “honorable” are usually not eligible for some, if not all veterans benefits.

Eligibility to VA benefits based on type of discharge:

  • Medical Benefits — Only veterans with anything other than a dishonorable discharge are eligible for VA health care.
  • Disability Compensation — Only veterans with anything other than a dishonorable discharge are eligible.. — The Post-9/11 GI Bill and Montgomery GI Bill require an honorable or general discharge; all other education benefits (Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance, or DEA, and Veteran Readiness and Employment, or VR&E) require an “other than dishonorable” discharge.
  • Home Loan — Only those with anything other than a dishonorable discharge are eligible.

What Is an “Other-Than-Dishonorable” Discharge?

The VA uses the term “other than dishonorable” in determining eligibility to benefits; however, that is not a type of discharge that is issued by the Defense Department. Specifically, the BCD and dishonorable discharges are the only types that can be considered dishonorable..

The law that governs veterans benefits specifically says anyone with an other-than-honorable discharge or worse is not legally considered a veteran by the federal government. Since they aren’t considered veterans, they aren’t eligible for any veterans benefits. This applies to all federal and many state benefits.

Service members being separated with an “other than honorable” discharge must be informed in writing that they may ask the VA to review their service record to determine eligibility for veteran’s benefits.

The VA will review the member’s service record to determine the specific cause for the discharge. There are some crimes, like desertion or spying that are permanent bars to benefits,

When a veteran with a less-than-honorable discharge applies for benefits or requests a review, the VA will examine the service information and make a character of discharge determination. If the VA makes a positive determination, the veteran becomes eligible for benefits. If there is a negative determination, the veteran may request to have their discharge changed by the military.

Getting a Dishonorable Discharge Changed

Each branch has a discharge review board with authority to change, correct or modify discharges. The board has limited authority to address medical discharges or those issued by a general court-martial.

Other-than-Honorable Discharge After Reenlistment

When the VA determines eligibility for benefits, they look at a veteran’s entire military service. If the veteran reenlisted at least one time in their military career, they may be eligible for benefits, no matter what type of discharge they received when they finally left the service.

The VA will review the service record and see whether the veteran ever reenlisted. If so, that means the veteran was honorably discharged from the service in order to reenlist, and they will most likely be eligible for all normal veterans benefits.

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General Discharge

A discharge from any military branch is the moment a service member is released from their obligation to serve.

There are different types of discharges from the military, and a general discharge is one of the types.

1. What is a General Discharge?

Types of military discharge


A general discharge is an administrative discharge for those who served with faith but ran into some difficulties.

Typically, this discharge comes after nonpunitive corrections were not successful in changing behaviors that get in the way of meeting military expectations.

Essentially, the service member performed adequately but is not a good long-term fit to be a member of the armed forces.

2. General Discharge vs. Honorable Discharge

An honorable discharge is the highest level of discharge a service member can receive. It means the expected duties were well-performed, and the member was faithful to their assigned duties.

A general discharge is considered an administrative discharge.

Each branch of the military has different administrative reasons for this particular discharge.

When a service member receives their separation paperwork, the reasons are typically specific and stated on the paperwork.

Also, a service member’s DD Form 214 will report the discharge with the reasons.

Lastly, there are a couple of different versions of this discharge, including a ‘General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions’ and a ‘General Discharge Other than Honorable Conditions.’

3. What is A General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions?

A General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions means you met all the expectations of their service.

However, there might be some issues with minor disciplinary actions.

Also, there is likely a failure to meet some standards.

In general, this type of discharge shows satisfactory service.

4. What is an Other Than Honorable Discharge?

a court martial could lead to a discharge


An Other Than Honorable Discharge is not as favorable.

Typically, this type of discharge means you struggled to meet expectations for conduct and performance and show a pattern of behavior that is not in line with a service member’s expectations.

Generally, this administrative discharge is due to the following problems:

  • Abuse of power
  • Serious issues with conduct
  • Court-martial conviction without punishment
  • A pattern of continued abuse of power or misconduct
  • Fraternization

5. Why Would Someone Get a General Discharge?

Several issues lead to this administrative Discharge.

In some cases, the discharge is due to not maintaining expectations in the following areas:

  • Dress and appearance
  • Fitness and weight
  • Success in completion of training
  • Minor issues with discipline
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6. General Discharge Benefits

To receive VA benefits, the character of your discharge matters.

If you have a general discharge, you qualify for several benefits.

VA Compensation benefits include disability, dependency and indemnity compensation, and special monthly compensation.

Also, those with this type of discharge qualify for a pension, home loan, and insurance benefits.

Although, if you want education benefits, you must have an honorable discharge.

7. General Discharge Downsides

As with many other types of discharges, there are disadvantages to a general.

Often, those who do not understand the discharge criteria may not understand a General Discharge is something else entirely from a Dishonorable Discharge. Even though this perception is false, it is hard to overcome the stigma.

Also, you are disqualified from Education benefits through the VA.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

We answered some of the most asked questions revolving around a General Discharge.

8. Can You Get a Job with a General Discharge?

You can seek employment as a civilian in the private sector.

Also, you may apply for a Federal Civil Service job, as well. Because the job application is based on points, your discharge earns you ten points for job considerations.

9. Can a General Discharge Be Upgraded to Honorable?

There are options for changing the discharge.

You may consider the Discharge Review Board if you feel your discharge was not proper or equitable under the law.

For instance, a veteran might suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and the disorder is the reason for the behaviors that caused the discharge in the first place.

When you apply for reconsideration, you need to prepare your explanation and statements from others you served in the military and current character references.

You will also need records of your educational background and proof you are in good standing financially and in your conduct as a civilian.

10. Can You Rejoin the Military with a General Discharge?

Yes, if you have a general discharge, you may reenlist.

Although, if your discharge includes details regarding a pattern of minor discipline problems, you may have to explain.

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The moment a service member separates from the military is the time of discharge.

The circumstances leading up to the separation determines the type of discharge.

A general discharge is administrative in nature and reserved for those who serve with good faith and intentions.

However, those members may not meet the requirements and expectations of their branch of the military.

Therefore, they earn a general.

If you receive this type of discharge, you receive nearly all the same benefits as someone with an honorable discharge, with the exception of VA Educational benefits.

However, there if there are mitigating reasons that explain the behaviors that prompted the discharge, you can submit an appeal to a board for reconsideration.


See Also:

Rob V. is the founder of While he never actually served in the US Military, he has a passion for writing about military related topics.

Born and raised in Woodbridge, NJ, he graduated from the New Jersey Institute Of Technology with an MBA in eCommerce.His hobbies include beach volleyball, target shooting, and lifting.

Rob is also a Commercially rated pilot and Certified Flight Instructor (CFI), with over 1,500 hours of flight time.

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General Discharge

General Discharge

4.5 out of 5 (29 Ratings)

A General Discharge is given to a servicemember if they served honorably, but had a few issues. Learn more about how bad a general discharge is here.

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Top Jobs in Scuba Diving

So you’ve gotten your first diving certification and now you’re hooked. You’re bored of your current job and you’re looking for something more exciting, right? While it is possible to have a career in diving with only an open water certification, often times it takes more training to achieve professional status. Below, we describe a few careers in which you can dive for a living! What could be better?

Dive Instructor
Salary: $31,000 – $50,000

Of course there’s the most obvious job of all… scuba instructor ! This job sounds like the dreamiest one of all… You spend your days on dive boats and exploring the underwater world. You might even get to live in a beautiful tropical location if you’re one of the super lucky ones. Being a dive instructor comes with a lot of responsibility; you have to make sure that your students are using the proper techniques and doing so safely. With that also comes the reward of introducing and guiding students into underwater discovery and awe. Overall, if you’re looking for a job that combines teaching and diving this might be the one for you.

Underwater Photographer
Salary: $35,000 – $60,000

Do you have a knack for photography? Love to dive? This might be the job for you. Underwater photographers take photos and videos of marine life, coral reefs, shipwrecks, and caves. These photographers might work in the fashion and hospitality industries as well, photographing underwater models and resort advertisements. While the photographer’s main job might be shooting pictures, they also need to be well-versed in their editing skills, they also need to be able to adjust light, coloring, and staging challenges that shooting underwater brings.

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To have a career as an underwater photographer, one must have the proper qualifications as a diver or snorkeler to perform this job. This starts at an open water certification and can advance as high as you wish. SDI also offers an underwater photography course for those who are interested in learning more. This is an introductory course and if you want to learn more we would suggest taking some higher level courses through a local workshop or at the college/university level. While some photographers have a high school diploma only, others find it helpful to seek higher education to better learn processes and equipment.

Golf Ball Diver
Salary: $36,000-55,000

This one isn’t an option that people think of often, but it’s definitely legitimate if you have the proper documentation; this being an agreement or contract with the course you plan to dive. If all you’ve ever experienced in diving is crystal clear, warm water, this might not be the job for you. Most of the time the waters golf ball divers are going into is murky and contaminated from pesticides and other chemicals. These waters often contain dangerous animals such as water moccasins, gators, and snakes. Let’s not forget about the downed trees, branches, hazardous trash such as broken glass and barbed wire, and low to zero visibility. Because of these factors, divers should be extremely confident in their abilities as a diver and also know self rescue skills. This job requires an advanced scuba diver certification due to the low to no visibility in the ponds of the golf courses. Divers might also consider taking a drysuit and full face mask course due to the nature of the waters they’re diving.

After you’ve taken into account all of the factors listed above, you then have to know about how competitive this business is. In the business of golf ball divers, you have poachers who sneak onto the courses at night and dive or wade on the edge to gather balls. The way a golf ball diver business works, a diver has a contractual agreement with the course(s) they are diving at that they get back a certain amount of money per each ball collected (this fee is usually 8-10 cents). Sometimes, the course will even take a percentage of balls back to use on their driving range. A diver will collect somewhere around 3,000 balls on an average day (8am-12pm) and will get back half of the original cost of those balls (some going for as high as $50 per dozen when new).

Commercial Diving
Salary: $54,750 – $93,910

This job isn’t one you take on a whim because it’s one that comes with many risks. It also varies from one extreme to another. Commercial diving is a very broad field ranging from underwater inspection to HAZMAT jobs. Commercial diving means working below the surface of water, performing tasks such as repairing, removing, or installing equipment underwater. Commercial divers use power & hand tools to conduct tests/experiments and rig explosives underwater. There are usually four factors to determining a commercial diver’s salary which include: diver experience, employer, location, and depth of dive. The commercial diving field isn’t one that is limited by location, but often you would work for 4-8 weeks in the field and have anywhere from 10 days – 4 weeks off to decompress and relax. This career is one that requires specialized schooling rather than a specific certification.

Marine Archaeologist
Salary: $39,000 – $72,000

Do shipwrecks interest you? Does the thought of finding sunken treasure excite you? Marine Archaeology might be the job for you. These are the people who study the ocean floor looking for shipwrecks and sites that might contain human remains to items of monetary value. You might also be in charge of keeping a database of shipwrecks in your area and updating it on a regular basis to make sure looters don’t disturb wreck sites. Marine archaeologists are also the people called when someone wants to build something in the ocean that might disrupt the ocean floor. They check the site to make sure the area is okay to build in and that there are no other wrecks that will be affected. Overall, your job here would be to preserve underwater artifacts and protect local wildlife. This job requires a certification that will allow you to dive shipwrecks , you’ll need advanced buoyancy , and even nitrox for longer dives.

Public Safety Diver
Salary: $39,000

Do you know who deals with accidents and crime scenes in bodies of water? Did you know there are specialized diving certifications for law enforcement officers? These divers are called public safety divers; they can be found diving into bodies of water to rescue or recover people or evidence in accidents and on crime scenes. Often times, these divers are faced with dangerous diving conditions with little to no visibility. Public safety diving requires very intense training; one must be prepared to see things that are not only frightening, but also very heartbreaking. You can learn more about being a public safety diver by visiting:

Diving can be extremely rewarding recreationally, but if you truly can’t get enough there’s no reason you shouldn’t explore it as a career. So jump in, do some research, and most importantly keep on diving!




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