Service members may face involuntary separated from the military through an administrative discharge for reasons that range from minor misconduct to more serious charges. The consequences of an administrative discharge are by definition less severe than a discharge imposed by a court-martial. However, an administrative discharge can have long-term effects on a service member’s employability, eligibility for Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) Benefits, reputation, and educational ambitions.
The two processes for administrative discharge are Notification Processing and Board Processing. Notification procedures are the most typical and mean that the notification and the service member’s response will be limited to written materials. In the event that a service member is entitled to have their case heard by an administrative discharge board, however, board procedures will be used.
When a service member is recommended for separation (also known as the ‘Respondent’), they must have the option of a hearing by an administrative discharge board if the leadership seeks to characterize the Respondent’s service as ‘Other Than Honorable.’ There are other criteria, usually specific to the branch, which entitles a Respondent to a board hearing. Factors such as rank, specific types of misconduct, and time in service, for example, may require the use of the board procedure.
An administrative discharge board is made up of three service members senior in rank to the Respondent, a Legal advocate, and a prosecutor who represents the command. Board proceedings are administrative in nature and the proceedings are not required to follow the formal rules of evidence, so the board may consider information which might not be admissible at a court-martial.