The type of military discharge you receive follows you into civilian life, potentially limiting your employment options and economic standing. Issued only after a conviction at a General Court-Martial, this sentence is handed down after a conviction for both civil and military offenses. Though it’s a military disciplinary action, it’s comparable to having a conviction on your record.
Even in the civilian sector, your dishonorable discharge could count as a strike against you, with an increasing number of employers running routine background checks on applicants. As with a criminal conviction, there’s little you can do to hide the information. Employers might view a dishonorable discharge the same way they would a criminal record, making them hesitant to trust you as a potential employee. Employment prospects are even more limited if you’re applying for federal employment. You’re also not eligible for vocational rehabilitation to help you re-enter the civilian workforce.
A dishonorable discharge bars you from receiving any kind of government assistance, even if you qualify based on need. For example, if you’re having trouble finding work, you can’t apply for aid to help sustain you until you find employment. In addition, you likely won’t be able to secure bank loans, making it difficult to buy a home. You also won’t qualify for financial aid such as government grants and loans, meaning you’ll have to pay for your entire tuition if you want to attend college. The consequences can affect your family as well, preventing children and widowed spouses from receiving your pension.
Loss of Status and Rights
If you leave under a dishonorable discharge, you essentially lose your standing as a military veteran. This means you won’t receive burial expenses, and you’ll lose the privilege of being buried in a national cemetery and with military honors such as flags. You also won't be able to wear your uniform or any medals and bars you’ve earned in recognition of distinguished service. No matter how accomplished or dedicated you were, this is erased as a result of the conduct that led to the discharge. In many cases, you also lose the right to vote and to possess firearms.
Loss of Health Care
Current and former soldiers typically receive lifelong health care through Veterans Affairs, a benefit you’ll forfeit as a result of a dishonorable discharge. If you can’t afford health insurance, you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket for all of your medical-related expenses. You also cannot receive wartime disability, even if you've suffered an injury during your time in the service. For example, if you developed PTSD as a result of your military service, you can’t receive treatment through the VA.
- Navy Times: Ask a Lawyer -- Other-Than-Honorable, Bad-Conduct Discharges Carry Similar Consequences
- Fort Hood Sentinel: Leaving on Good Terms -- Types of Discharges, Their Consequences
- State of Oregon: Military Discharge
- NPR: Help Is Hard to Get for Veterans After a Bad Discharge
- GI Rights Hotline: Discharges and Benefits
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