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Military Separation

Army separation refers to the process of formally leaving the military service, which can occur for various reasons and in various manners. 

  • It’s essentially the military’s way of saying that a service member’s time in the armed forces has concluded, and their official relationship with the military is ending. 

For Those Serving: Understanding Separation

  • When we talk about separation in the military, we’re addressing the various pathways and reasons that might bring our service to an official end. 
  • Serving in the military demands adherence to certain standards and expectations, and our duration of service can conclude in numerous ways based on our actions, circumstances, and sometimes, our choices.

This can happen in a few different ways, and it’s not always due to negative circumstances. 

Here are several forms and types of military separation:

Honorable Discharge

  • Description: This type of separation occurs when a service member has generally met or exceeded the conduct and performance standards of the military.
  • Implications: Veterans benefits are typically fully accessible for individuals with an honorable discharge.

When we serve diligently, meeting or exceeding our mandated conduct and performance standards, we might exit the service with an Honorable Discharge. 

For those of us who achieve this, our transition into civilian life often comes with full access to various veterans’ benefits.

General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions

  • Description: This can occur if a service member’s performance is satisfactory but fails to meet all expectations.
  • Implications: Some veterans’ benefits may be under restriction, depending on specific circumstances.

Now, sometimes, even if your performance is satisfactory but doesn’t meet all expectations, you might find yourself facing a General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions. Here, you should be aware that your access to certain veterans’ benefits might be restricted or modified.

Other Than Honorable (OTH) Discharge

  • Description: This typically results from a pattern of behavior or one incident that violates the expected conduct of service members.
  • Implications: Veterans may lose access to several or all veterans benefits.

For those of us who might have a lapse in adhering to the expected conduct, whether it’s through a pattern of behavior or a specific incident, an OTH discharge may become a reality. In this case, you’ll likely find that you’ll lose access to several veterans’ benefits.

Bad Conduct Discharge (BCD)

  • Description: Issued after a court-martial for behaviors deemed to be significantly against the conduct expected of military personnel.
  • Implications: Significant restrictions on veterans’ benefits and a notable impact on post-military life.

A Bad Conduct Discharge, often resulting from a court-martial due to behaviors significantly diverging from expected conduct, will likely place substantial restrictions on your post-service life and veterans’ benefits.

Dishonorable Discharge

  • Description: The most severe form of military separation, usually following a court-martial for very serious offenses.
  • Implications: Often results in the loss of all veterans’ benefits and can heavily impact life as a civilian.

If you find yourself facing a Dishonorable Discharge, typically following a court-martial for very severe offenses, your transition to civilian life may be notably impacted, often involving the loss of all veterans’ benefits.

Administrative Separation

  • Description: This might happen due to failure to meet physical fitness standards, inability to adapt to military life, or other administrative reasons, not usually related to misconduct.
  • Implications: Vary based on circumstances and type of discharge issued upon separation.

Some of us might encounter an Administrative Separation, which could be due to factors like not meeting physical fitness standards or struggling to adapt to military life. Here, the implications can vary widely depending on your specific circumstances and the type of discharge you receive.

Medical Separation/Retirement

  • Description: This occurs if a service member is deemed medically unfit for continued service.
  • Implications: Depending on the situation, the individual might receive medical retirement benefits.

In instances where you’re deemed medically unfit for continued service, a Medical Separation or retirement may be on the horizon. Depending on the circumstances, you might be entitled to certain medical retirement benefits.


  • Description: After a service member completes a requisite number of years of service, they can retire, receiving various benefits.
  • Implications: Generally, access to numerous veterans and retirement benefits.

After completing the requisite years of service, retirement becomes an option. If this is your path, you will generally have access to a range of veterans and retirement benefits.

Navigating Your Journey

  • Each type of separation carries with it its own processes, paperwork, and future implications for the service member. 
  • Your discharge status can significantly impact your post-military opportunities and access to benefits. 
  • Consequently, understanding the nuances and stipulations of each is crucial, especially in contexts like understanding regulations or providing veteran support. 
  • Always ensure to consult official documentation or a military legal expert for precise advice or when navigating specific situations.
George N.