Many people are under the impression that military discharge comes in one of two forms: honorable or dishonorable. If an enlisted person received less than an honorable discharge they are often under the impression that they received a dishonorable discharge. However, to be clear, you would absolutely know if you received a dishonorable discharge… it is designed to ruin your life ever after and is often accompanied by an extensive visit to a military prison.

There are Two Forms of Military Discharge

1. Administrative – This form of discharge is given by the discharge authority, often a commanding officer of high rank.

2. Punitive – This form of discharge is imposed by a court-martial.

Administrative Discharges

For those who receive an administrative discharge there are four:

1. Honorable Discharge
Almost all enlisted receive an honorable discharge once their service ends. This means your met the standards of conduct and performance while enlisted and that your service was meritorious so as to receive a medal for bravery or valor. You could have disciplinary action on your record but if you received a medal for valor on the battlefield it may still get you off with an honorable discharge.

2. General Discharge (under honorable conditions)
This is often referred to as a general discharge and is bestowed upon those whose serve was faithful and honest in spite of some trouble—as determined by the commander. You might receive this discharge if you were discharged on the basis of:

  • failure to maintain military standards in weight
  • failure to maintain military standards in fitness
  • failure to maintain military standards in dress
  • failure to maintain military standards in appearance
  • failure to progress in your training
  • you received minor disciplinary infractions

3. Other Than Honorable Discharge
Of all the administrative discharges this is the worst. This is warranted if your discharge was for a pattern of bad behavior. This can include:

  • a pattern of continued misconduct
  • an act of serious misconduct
  • abuse of authority
  • fraternization

Anyone who receives a court-martial conviction without punitive discharges is given this discharge characterization.

4. Entry-level Separation
This form of discharge has no characterization. It is not honorable or general. It can be granted by a commander for members who were in the military for less than 180 days. In other words it is for those who tried but could not make it during basic training and immediately after.

Punitive Discharges

A punitive discharge can only be imposed by a court-martial. Summary courts do not have the authority to impose a punitive discharge. However, your commanding officer can decide to initiate an administrative discharge proceeding separately if you are convicted of an offense by a court martial.

There are three types of punitive discharges:

1. Bad Conduct Discharge
This discharge can be imposed by a special court or general court. It is given as part of a court punishment to enlisted personnel only. Officers cannot receive this discharge. It is often given for conviction of:

  • absent without leave
  • drunk on duty
  • driving while under the influence
  • adultery
  • disorderly conduct
  • bad checks

2. Dismissal
When you are an officer you can be dismissed from military service. This discharge can be imposed by a special or general court and is often enforced alongside the maximum punishment as listed by the Manual for Courts Martial. It is an officer version of a bad conduct discharge.

3. Dishonorable Discharge
This type of discharge is the worst anyone in the military can receive. It can only be given by a general court-martial for the highest of offenses which are often accompanied by a prison sentence in a military prison.


  1. Thomas A. McQuiston November 18, 2015 at 8:38 pm - Reply

    Could I get a copy of my military ID – I lost it years ago.
    How do I go about it? I In listed in 1972 US Army
    stationed at Schofield Hawaii

  2. william james johnson November 21, 2015 at 6:44 am - Reply

    I need my form DD 214. I was grafted in July 1961 and was honorable discharge in July 1963. My form DD 214 was misplaced.

    I would like to have a copy of my DD 214.

    Thank you very much.

    Wiliam James Johnson

  3. Judee Martz April 21, 2016 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    My husband was in the Marines, I think corporal 1st class for 4 years. He is deceased and I wanted to get his discharge information and his dd214. How do I go about that?

  4. Nicole Tucker September 13, 2016 at 3:18 pm - Reply

    I would like to request a copy of my dd214 I served in october 2008to october 2012

  5. Edward blassingame sr May 18, 2017 at 2:29 am - Reply

    I filled a form9 in March 214 sdf 9 the rquires the VA answer in rebuttal or agreement with said request for disability and benefits awarded. My was simple all they was sign off for the paperwork to processed. It is a very simple all my “I” my “t” crossed they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars illegally withholding my Disability and benefits when was cheaper to pay me whatever they owe me then to get innocent people in troubles helping them. I one legitimate reason for withholding my disability and benefits, but I heard plenty bigoted and racial overtones. I have no beef with them.Just what and due so can move and my granddaughters growup

  6. Irving September 25, 2017 at 5:01 pm - Reply

    Trying to find help to file for a discharge upgrade.

  7. Sherry October 25, 2017 at 10:21 pm - Reply

    My husband was in the Air forces some years back and he has misplaced his discharge papers .can someone please explain what needs to be done in order to obtain a copy of all his military records .Thanks

  8. Krystal January 5, 2018 at 8:22 pm - Reply

    How do I get a copy of my OTH discharge disposition. I need it in order to take boards to get my license for nursing. Any help is appreciated.

    • Matt Terry April 23, 2018 at 7:35 pm - Reply


      Contact the Veterans Affairs office nearest you for the answers you seek.


  9. Tejas January 27, 2018 at 1:56 am - Reply

    So my grandson shows up today, says he was released by the airforce as honorable discharge but will not say 100% exactly what for. Searching costs me my dime but I want the truth! How can I find out an easier way, im 82 now and I feel this is something I need to get to the bottom of before im gone. All these websites want this or that my credit card #s I feel that is a rip off

    can anyone help or point me in the right direction?

    • Matt Terry April 23, 2018 at 7:17 pm - Reply

      Contact the Veterans Affairs office nearest you for the answers you seek.


  10. Stephen March 10, 2018 at 2:04 am - Reply

    Has Anyone Ever Heard Of A ”Good Of The Service Discharge” In The Marines….I Can’t Find Any Information About That Type Of Discharge….ThanX For Your Help

  11. c lee May 1, 2018 at 5:58 pm - Reply

    what is an undesirable discharge?

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