Types Of Military Discharges

The most common types of military discharges are honorable and dishonorable discharges. However, it’s noteworthy to know that other statuses can affect your discharge from the military. When you leave the military service, your discharge status describes the circumstances under which you left.

Your discharge status can affect the benefits you receive from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, VA can be affected by your discharge status, and it is important that you understand each status and how it may affect you.


It is also important to note there is a difference between military discharge and military retirement. A military discharge is given to a member of the armed forces to release him from his obligation to serve whereas a retired member can be called back into service. 

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Types Of Military Discharges

There are eight types of military discharges but they fall under two categories; Administrative separations and punitive separations

Administrative Separation Or Discharge

An administrative discharge is the type of discharge where the military separates you from service or active duty through administrative actions.

Read also: How To Upgrade Your Military Discharge

You can receive this separation due to involuntary reasons like medical conditions, poor duty performance, or repeated misconduct, or for voluntary reasons like deciding to leave the service after you’ve completed your current term. 

Administrative discharge can lead to;

1. Honorable Discharge

This is the commonest type of military discharge. It proves that the military member did not leave the service under dishonorable situations like misconduct, poor duty performance, or criminal conviction, and this type of discharge doesn’t need to go through the court system. 

For a military member to receive an honorable discharge, he must have completed his term of service or have a valid reason for not doing so such as pregnancy, or medical conditions like PTSD symptoms(Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and disability.


Also, they must have followed the rule and expectations of the armed forces. As a military member with an honorable discharge, you are allowed to receive veterans benefits like pension, health insurance, and a VA home loan.

2. General Discharge

The general discharge is another type of administrative discharge. A military member may receive a general discharge if they have served honorably but failed to meet all the expectations of conduct of the military service and this prevents them from receiving an honorable award. 

Nonetheless, the general discharge does not come with the unpleasant consequences of the dishonorable discharge.

As opposed to veterans with a dishonorable discharge, military members with a general discharge status do not have misconduct issues that would require a court-martial or judicial punishment.

Read also: Military Housing: Should You Live On Base Or Off?

3. Other Than Honorable Discharge 

This is the third type of administrative discharge. Veterans with Other Than Honorable discharges are not as favored as those with an honorable or general discharge. 

This discharge status is usually reserved for military members who do not uphold the integrity expectations of the armed forces. 

For instance, being found guilty of adultery while in service or receiving a conviction in a civilian court are a few examples that could lead to this type of discharge status.

This discharge status is given when service members break the rules or exhibit poor and negative behavior but their actions do not warrant court intervention. 

Veterans with an Other Than Discharge status rarely receive veterans benefits because of the circumstances surrounding it.

4. Entry-Level Discharge 

The Entry-Level discharge, also known as ELS is neither considered an honorable nor dishonorable discharge but is a form of administrative discharge. 

This discharge status is usually given to military members who must leave the service within the first 180 days of joining probably because of a medical condition or failing to meet the demands of the military. 

5. Medical Discharge

Service members can receive a medical discharge for various reasons related to health whether injury, disability, or any other medical condition.

Sometimes, a medical discharge stems from a medical condition that is made worse in the course of performing military duties or acquired in the course of service.

Medical discharge is a form of administrative discharge and this discharge status is typically not viewed negatively on the service members’ record because of the circumstances surrounding it. 

Before military members are given this discharge status, they must undergo a medical evaluation that shows that they are no longer able to continue with their military functions.

Through the veteran’s benefits system, veterans with a medical discharge can apply for disability benefits. Since the program requires service connection before paying out benefits,  medical evaluations can be used to prove service connection.

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Punitive Separation Or Discharge

A punitive discharge can have an ultimate impact on a veteran’s ability to receive veterans’ benefits, reenlist, or serve in government employment.

This type of separation commonly results in a dishonorable discharge. All punitive separation or discharges involve a court-martial. 

The two types of punitive separations a military member can receive are;

1. Bad Conduct Discharge (BCD)

BCD is one form of punitive discharge and is designed for military members with bad conduct. However, it’s less intense compared to a dishonorable discharge.

Military members can get a bad conduct discharge for offenses like alcohol and drug abuse, or insubordination.

Many times, individuals who receive a BCD are imprisoned beforehand which leaves a negative mark on their record and prevents them from getting VA benefits.

2. Dishonorable Discharge 

This type of punitive discharge carries the most severe consequences. Typically, military members are given a dishonorable discharge when they involve themselves in actions or behaviors that go totally against military ethics and rules such as murder or rape. 

These discharges come from a court-martial process and remain on the veteran’s permanent record. 

The consequence does not end with having a stained record which makes it hard to find employment but also the service member in question would be denied VA benefits and will not be able to have or keep firearms or ammunition.

Veterans with this discharge status may also be unable to vote, get a loan, work for the government or receive government assistance.

3. Officer Discharge

Commissioned officers receive a different kind of discharge from non-officers. When they need to be discharged, they do not receive a dishonorable or bad conduct discharge for misconduct instead they are given what is called an Officer Discharge that releases them from their obligation to serve. 

Even though there are differences in the name tag, the officer discharge carries the same weight as the dishonorable or BCD discharge. 

Also read: Military Medical Enlistment Standards for Dental Issues


In the service, there are eight types of military discharges in total consisting of honorable, other than honorable, dishonorable, bad conduct, medical, entry-level, general, and officer discharges. However, these discharges are categorized into two; administrative and punitive discharges. 

We hope that this article has been able to provide you with the information you seek. Kindly drop your comments or questions in the section below.



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