Sometimes people are confused by the types and ramifications of each discharge one can receive from the military. The rank and file of the military have a belief that you never know what rule, infraction or crime the military will enforce on any given day. has been observing military jurisprudence for many years, and it’s clearly obvious the American military has a two-tier judicial system where flag-ranking officers are allowed to retire to avoid prosecution, while members in the lower ranks are tossed into prison and given career crushing discharges.

Members of the military call it, “Different Spanks for Different Ranks.” The military’s unwritten policy of giving the admirals and generals a pass, keeping them above the law, flies in the face of our United States Constitution and the concept of Equal Justice Under Law.

A military officer who buys a drink for an enlisted man or woman, calls them by their first name and goes out for dinner is technically fraternizing which is a violation of military law. There does not have to be any sex involved for it to be labeled as fraternization. For a single count of fraternization, a military officer can receive two years in prison, a felony conviction and be dishonorably discharged from the armed forces. For whatever reason, the military candy-coated the discharge by calling it a “dismissal.” A dismissal from the military is a dishonorable discharge.


The seriousness of this cannot be overstated. For example, in the Navy’s own PUNISHMENT CHART, a “dismissal” is second only to death in severity of punishment. Because the maximum punishment for fraternization is two years in a federal penitentiary, a conviction for having a date with a subordinate not only can send a person to Ft. Leavenworth, but is also a felony conviction.

Obviously, for good order and discipline in the military there has to be regulations addressing fraternization, but two years confinement and a felony conviction for having a date seems to be a bit over the top. Common sense would suggest that such extremes in punishment should be reserved only for those infractions that bear malice, meaning evil-intent on the part of a person who commits a wrongful act injurious to others. AS A SIDE NOTE – President Ronald Reagan was the one who increased the punishment for fraternization in the military  from a misdemeanor to a felony.

Many military members automatically respond, “Aw, that never happens.” Those of us at know for a fact, that military courts have handed down such punishments. It’s one of the reasons we do this job. All of us at feel it’s just plain wrong when admirals and generals are given a pass for outrageous behavior, such as fraud, murder, rape, assault, etc., while junior officers and enlisted personnel are being thrown in a prison, in some cases, for doing far, far less.

As an example of the different-spanks syndrome, since the inception of the United States Air Force in 1947, no flag-ranking officer has ever been convicted by a military court martial. As far as we know, no court-martial has ever been convened for any Air Force general. Just before the United States Air Force was created by Congress, an Army Air Corps general was court-martialed for contract fraud involving one of the companies owned by Howard Hughes.

Regardless of what crime they commit, flag-ranking officers of the United States military are guaranteed an honorable discharge, even though some commit the most dishonorable and despicable acts imaginable.


There are five different discharges the military can issue. Three discharges are administrative and two are punitive which are considered as punishment, only issued from court-martial proceedings. Going from the best discharge to the worst, they are as follows…

Honorable Discharge

An Honorable Discharge is an ADMINISTRATIVE discharge. It means a service member completed his or her duty with admirable personal and professional conduct. Ones with an honorable discharge receive full benefits.  They also have an easier time finding employment since an honorable discharge reflects well on a resume.

General, under Honorable Conditions

A General under Honorable Conditions is an ADMINISTRATIVE discharge. The word “General” denotes that a service member completed his or her service with less-than-honorable circumstances during duty or upon discharge. Conditions such as illness, injury or other determinants lead to a general discharge.

Unacceptable behavior such as drug abuse initiates a general discharge as well. A commander makes known the reason for a general discharge in writing. People tend to equate a general discharge with an honorable one.  However, general discharges actually deem many veterans ineligible for certain benefits such as the GI Bill.

Other-than-Honorable Discharge (OTH)
(formerly: “Undesirable Discharge”)

A judgment of an OTH discharge occurs when a military member is in trouble with the civilian court system, for reasons like a felony conviction leading to imprisonment. OTH is the most severe of the ADMINISTRATIVE discharges because people with OTH are banned from ever reenlisting into the military. OTH recipients do not receive VA healthcare or most benefits provided through the VA.

Bad Conduct Discharge (BCD)
(Sailors call it the; “Big Chicken Dinner”)

Bad Conduct Discharge is a PUNITIVE discharge handed down by a court. It is normally punishment for a crime and generally given to enlisted personnel. Normally, those who receive a BCD will serve time in a military prison. No benefits are available to veterans with a bad conduct discharge.

Dishonorable Discharge (DD)

A dishonorable discharge is also a PUNITIVE action against a military member only handed down by a court-martial proceeding. Serious offenses such as murder, rape or desertion will usually result in a general court martial, unless it involves a flag-ranking officer, of course. Flag-ranking officers are allowed to retire to avoid prosecution and are almost never court-martialed, regardless of what they do.

The military can and does convene general court martials for “crimes” that bear no malice such as fraternization (dating someone junior in rank). Statistically, most all discharges from a general court-martial are dishonorable for enlisted members and a “dismissal” for an officer. For all intents and purposes, a “dismissal” is a “dishonorable” discharge.

Personnel receiving a dishonorable discharge do not receive any VA benefits, and may never possess a firearm or be allowed to vote. Dishonorable dischargees will generally have a very hard time finding any employment above minimum wage for the rest of their lives. A dishonorable discharge is a life sentence.