The U.S. Army, like the other branches of the armed forces, uses the Department of Defense's system of categorizing the discharges of its personnel. These discharges, which differ depending on each soldier's career and quality of service, are designed to sum up each member's stint in the Army and, in essence, give their performances a final grade. The type of discharge a soldier receives can have far-reaching consequences and can effect his veteran's benefits and future job prospects.
An honorable discharge is given to soldiers who complete their term of service while performing their job up to the Army's standards. In essence, as long as soldiers show up, work hard and stay out of trouble, they will receive an honorable discharge. This type of discharge guarantees that soldiers are eligible to all available veterans' benefits and, in general, is looked upon highly by potential employers and society as a whole.
Although not an honorable discharge, a general discharge is given to soldiers who separate from the Army under honorable conditions but have a poor record of job performance. In order to receive this type of discharge, members must have been judged to be serving in good faith but lack the sufficient record to receive an honorable discharge. General discharges still qualify soldiers for most veterans' benefits, but may leave them ineligible for some--including the GI Bill.
Under Other than Honorable Conditions
The worst type of administrative discharge available, an under other than honorable conditions is given to those who have a poor record of performance and habitually violate Army rules and regulations. For example, those who have a record of being violent, committing frequent security violations or as seen as a danger to the welfare of the Army or country in general will be given a discharge under other than honorable conditions. This type of discharge is considered a black-mark on a soldier's service record and bars them from re-enlisting in any branch of the armed forces and from receiving most all veteran's benefits.
Unlike a discharge under other than honorable conditions, a bad-conduct discharge can only be issued by way of a court martial and usually involves repeated violations of the Uniform Military Code of Justice (UMCJ). Note that this type of discharge is only given to enlisted personnel and is not in use for commissioned officers. A bad-conduct discharge forfeits a soldier's claim to most all veteran's benefits.
A dishonorable discharge is the worst type of discharge the Army can issue a soldier and, like a bad conduct discharge, can only be issued by way of a court martial. A dishonorable discharge is reserved for those who commit grievous law or UCMJ violations such as murder, rape, desertion or other excessively violent or high-level crimes. Those discharged dishonorably are ineligible for all benefits and may struggle to find civilian employment due to their poor service record.
- army image by Katrina Miller from Fotolia.com