The Consequences of a Dishonorable Discharge in the Military

Military servicemen that are discharged officially exit their branch of service. The type of military discharge received follows them into civilian life, potentially limiting employment options and economic standing. Issued only after a conviction at a General Court-Martial, the dishonorable discharge punishment is one type of discharge handed down after a conviction for both civil and military offenses. Although a dishonorable discharge is a military disciplinary action, it’s comparable to having a conviction on your record.

Finding Work

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, Hiding the information. Employers may 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 ineligible for vocational rehabilitation to help you re-enter the civilian workforce.

Economic Impact

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 the military because of 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 with rank-appropriate military honors like the folding and presenting of the American flag to the next of kin and playing of Taps by a bugler. 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, the service records are 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. Even if you've suffered an injury during your time in the service, you are no longer eligible to receive wartime disability. For example, if you developed post-traumatic stress syndrome, or PTSD, as a result of your military service, you can’t receive medical treatment through the Veterans Affairs department.