Military Discharge Types Defined

Military Discharge TypesMilitary Discharge Types

Military discharge types are a characterization of service is assigned to a service member when separated from the military. This characterization is a “discharge”.  A military discharge usually falls into one of six categories:

  1. Honorable Discharge
  2. General Discharge – Under Honorable Conditions
  3. Other Than Honorable Discharge
  4. Bad Conduct Discharge
  5. Dishonorable Discharge
  6. Uncharacterized Discharge


An unfavorable discharge is a discharge characterization less than an Honorable.  All unfavorable discharges negatively impact post-service benefits.  The military will not automatically upgrade your unfavorable discharge after a period of time has passed following your separation.  Service members who do not have an Honorable discharge – and fail to apply for one –  are forfeiting the opportunity to access post-service benefits.

As discussed below, each discharge characterization affects eligibility for post-service benefits in distinct ways.

Honorable Discharge

Only an Honorable discharge ensures access to a full range of medical, housing, financial, and educational benefits.  An Honorable discharge guarantees the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical benefits for a lifetime.  VA access provides medical treatment, dental care, substance abuse services, and both outpatient and inpatient mental health services.

Additionally, qualifying service members with an Honorable discharge have access to educational funds through the Montgomery G.I. Bill or the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.  In addition to tuition assistance, the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill can provide a housing allowance to offset the cost of education.  A service member can transfer their Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to a qualifying spouse or dependent.

Service members with an Honorable discharge also enjoy post-service employment benefits, retention of security clearance status, burial honors, and benefits related to VA housing.

General – Under Honorable Conditions Discharge

A General Under Honorable Conditions (GUH) characterization of service is also referred to as a “General Discharge”.   A GUH discharge is assigned when service was satisfactory but did not warrant an Honorable discharge.  Service members with a superior service record can be assigned this discharge because of non-judicial punishment(s).

Sometimes viewed as the “second best” discharge, a General Discharge causes loss of educational benefits.  Service members who receive a General Discharge do not have access to the Montgomery or the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.  Due to the stigma associated with a General discharge, certain Government jobs may also be denied to service members who receive the discharge.  A service member with a General Discharge will usually have access to VA medical and dental care, as well as home loans offered by the VA.


Under Other Than Honorable Conditions Discharge

This characterization of service is commonly referred to as an “Other Than Honorable” or “OTH” discharge. An OTH is the worst administrative discharge available.  It results in a severe loss of military service benefits and may cause hardships in post-service civilian life.

First, a service member with an OTH will likely be barred from future enlistment in the armed forces.

Second, a service member with an OTH discharge is not guaranteed VA medical benefits.  Additionally, an OTH may impact a service member’s employment opportunities even among civilian employers.


Bad conduct discharge

A bad conduct discharge, or “BCD,” can only be imposed by either a special or general court-martial.  A BCD will be assigned as a punitive discharge for a very serious offense.  Only enlisted service members are able to receive a Bad Conduct Discharge.

This type of discharge forfeits all VA and post-military veterans’ benefits.  Even civilian employers will likely look unfavorably on a job candidate with this discharge.

A bad conduct discharge bans a service member from future enlistment.  Depending on the service member’s court-martial conviction, a BCD may also prevent a service member from owning a firearm in as a civilian after separation.


Dishonorable discharge

A dishonorable discharge, or “DD,” is the worst military discharge available.  Only a general court-martial can award this discharge and only if the Manual for Courts-Martial authorizes it following conviction of an offense.  In many dishonorable discharge cases, a DD is accompanied by a prison sentence.

Federal law prohibits service members with a dishonorable discharge from owning a firearm.  In many jurisdictions, a service member who receives this discharge loses the right to vote.  Ultimately, a dishonorable discharge generally prohibits a service member from receiving any type of governmental assistance.



When you are separated at entry-level status you are assigned an uncharacterized discharge. Generally, entry-level is the period of the first 180 days of military service.  An uncharacterized discharge is not negative.  However, it will not permit access to veterans’ benefits.

If you have questions about your discharge, contact Crisp and Associates, LLC today for a free consultation.