6 Types of Military Discharges

It’s just not like any other job, is it?

The government has every intention, and legal right, to hold you to your military obligations.  You signed a contract.  You took an oath.  “Quitting” the military is not only extremely difficult, but it’s often just not a practical option.

But your service will end, right?  Whether it’s after your first enlistment or obligation, retiring with 20+ years of active federal service or for other reasons-

However, the type of military discharge you receive can have a large bearing on your future plans.

types of military discharges

Types of Military Discharges and a brief explanation of each.


Honorable Discharge

The service member has met all obligations of service, conduct and performance.  At discharge time, the commanding officer will characterize their service as honorable.  There are also a few situations such as medical or psychological issues that can result in honorable service.

Eligible for full Veteran’s Benefits

General Discharge (under honorable conditions)

The service member did not meet all the stipulations of their military obligation.  While the majority of their military service time was honorable, there were a few episodes of misconduct or poor performance that will prevent them from receiving an honorable discharge.

Eligible for some Veteran’s Benefits.

Other than Honorable Discharge

The service member did not meet the standards of discipline, conduct and performance.  They acted dishonorably, and possibly exhibited criminal behavior.

NOT eligible for Veteran’s Benefits

Inability to Adjust

Mostly given to those who cannot change and deal with the social, mental and physical demands of the military.  To receive this type of discharge it must be completed within 180 days of entering active-duty and is considered an entry-level discharge.  There is no characterization of honorable, dishonorable or general for this type of discharge.

NOT eligible for Veteran’s Benefits

Voluntary Discharge

Under certain, very specific circumstances service members may request a voluntary separation from their military obligations.  Cases include; pregnancy, family hardship, conscientious objection, to pursue some type of further education or request release into a reserve or inactive-reserve status.  There are only certain situations in which this type of discharge will be approved and the process can be grueling.  No guarantee is made the request will be processed favorably and approved.

NOT eligible for Veteran’s Benefits

Dishonorable/Bad Conduct Discharge

Severe criminal behavior resulted in the service member appearing before a general or special court martial. The worst of military discharges.

NOT eligible for Veteran’s Benefits.  May have to divulge the characterization of discharge on job and school applications.  Also, the service member may lose typical citizen rights such as the right to vote and the right to bear/own firearms.

About Ken

I've been in the Army for 18 years and am a Sergeant First Class currently stationed with the 1st Recruiting Brigade's Master Trainer Team. My dream is to make a living online in retirement while helping military members and their families transition to civilian life and ensuring that they have the support they had while in the military.
"It's about taking care of each other. It's about standing side-by-side, in combat or in garrison. It's about preserving the integrity of our military and ensuring that, as a fraternity, we are supporting each other after the military as well."


  1. I work in a homeless veterans employment / services program and your discharge definitions are not universal for benefits. I serve several veterans who have General Discharges. And, in certain cases, a Bad Conduct Discharge can be eligible for specific benefits.