There are so many types of discharges. Help?

There are a lot of different types of discharges, it can get confusing.  So let me take a moment to walk through them.  Discharges that you can get if you are found guilty of certain offenses at a court-martial are different than those that you could receive when you are administratively discharged.  Also, in a court-martial, the discharges are different for commissioned officers and enlisted servicemembers.  At a general court-martial where the accused is a commissioned officer and he or she is found guilty of certain offenses, that officer could be given what is called a “dismissal.”  An officer cannot be given a dismissal at a special or summary court-martial, only at a general court-martial.  Enlisted servicemembers who are found guilty at a court-martial are never given a dismissal, instead they could receive a bad-conduct discharge or a dishonorable discharge.  Out of the two, a dishonorable discharge is considered the most severe and can only be given by a general court-martial.  No discharge can be given at a summary court-martial or  at an Article 15/NJP proceeding.  The types of discharges possible at a court-martial are different than those possible if a servicemember is administratively discharged.  Administrative discharges are characterized as, Honorable, General under Honorable Conditions, or an Other than Honorable Discharge.  Administrative discharges can usually be done by the command simply signing the appropriate paperwork.  For example, when a servicemember reaches the end of his or her enlistment period, he or she may simply receive an Honorable Discharge signed by the command.  However, sometimes, depending on the type of discharge being administered and the years of service the servicemember has served, an administrative board must be held prior to a servicemember’s separation from service.  As part of this board, the characterization of discharge, Honorable, General or Other than Honorable is typically discussed.  The main point to understand is that the discharges one may receive if given through a court-martial are different and more severe than those one may receive through an administrative process.  Also, it is important to know that the treatment one receives in the civilian world may be affected by the type or characterization of one’s discharge.  The military benefits one receives following their discharge will also depend on the characterization of their discharge.  If you are facing either a court-martial or an administrative discharge, you really need to understand the different types of discharges you could receive.  You need an advocate by your side who has the experience to know what type of discharge is appropriate in your case or if you should be receiving a discharge at all.  You need someone to fight for you because the type of discharge you receive will affect your future.  Additionally, if you have already been discharged and you believe your discharge should be upgraded, you need someone with Discharge Review Board experience to help you.  I have this experience.  To speak to an experienced court-martial and military defense attorney, call Bill Cassara at 706-860-5769 for a free consultation.

William E. Cassara- Military Law Attorney

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