Being discharged from the military is a significant event in the life of most military members. Military members enter the military in a contract with the government and it provides a source of livelihood for military members who are protecting the nation. As a result, if they are facing discharge, they may have a number of questions about what the different types of discharge are and what they mean.

There are two primary categories that military discharges fall into including administrative discharges and punitive discharges. An administrative discharge is given by a discharging authority of high rank which is usually a high-ranking officer. A punitive discharge is generally given through a courts-martial. The quality of service and reason for the separation determines the type of discharge the military member may receive. Types of administrative discharges include honorable and other than honorable discharges. Each type of discharge represents a separation of the military member’s relationship with the military.

Punitive discharges include a bad conduct discharge and dishonorable discharges. The type of discharge them military members receives is generally based on the characterization of their service. The discharge process can be complex and is generally broken down into voluntary discharges from the military by the military member and involuntary discharges. Different factors are considered when determining separation so it is helpful for military members to be familiar with the separation process.

Because receiving a discharge from the military can have a significant present and future impact on the military member and their life, military members should have a strong understanding of the process, their rights in the process and how they can and should respond. Military law is not without complexities so knowledge of the discharge process can help guide military members.

Source: The Balance Careers, “Military Justice 101 – Discharges,” Stewart Smith, March 7, 2018