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Character of Discharge


The term “Character of Discharge” refers to the nature of a veteran’s separation from military service. It is an important factor determining eligibility for various VA benefits. The types of discharge include honorable, general under honorable conditions, other than honorable, bad conduct, and dishonorable, which might affect benefit eligibility differently.

Key Takeaways

  1. Character of Discharge refers to the type of discharge a military servicemember receives, which can impact their eligibility for VA benefits. The types of discharges include Honorable, General, Other Than Honorable, Bad Conduct, and Dishonorable.
  2. Eligibility for VA benefits largely depends on having a discharge that is not “dishonorable.” Veterans with an Honorable or General discharge are typically eligible for benefits, while those with Other Than Honorable, Bad Conduct, or Dishonorable discharges may face challenges in accessing benefits.
  3. If a veteran believes their Character of Discharge is unjust or erroneous, they can apply for a discharge upgrade through the Discharge Review Board or the Board for Correction of Military Records. A successful upgrade may grant the veteran access to VA benefits they were previously ineligible for.


The Character of Discharge is an important term in the context of VA benefits because it determines a veteran’s eligibility to access various Veterans Affairs services and support programs.

It refers to the classification assigned to a veteran’s service, such as Honorable, General Under Honorable Conditions, Other Than Honorable, Bad Conduct, or Dishonorable discharge.

This classification plays a critical role in deciding whether a veteran qualifies for specific benefits, such as healthcare, education, home loans, or disability compensation.

The VA carefully evaluates the Character of Discharge, along with other factors, to ensure that only qualified individuals receive essential resources while also maintaining the integrity of the VA benefits programs.


The Character of Discharge serves a crucial purpose in determining a veteran’s eligibility for various benefits and services offered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). After completing their service, veterans receive a form called the DD-214, which documents the nature of their separation from the military. Within this form, the Character of Discharge is documented, essentially reflecting the veteran’s overall military service conduct.

This classification ascertains whether or not a veteran’s separation from the military meets the eligibility criteria for certain VA benefits, assessing whether their service was carried out under honorable or less-than-honorable conditions. The purpose of establishing a Character of Discharge is to maintain a standard by which the VA can fairly and consistently evaluate a veteran’s entitlement to specific benefits, thereby safeguarding the integrity of the benefits system. A favorable Character of Discharge can grant access to numerous benefits such as healthcare, disability compensation, educational support under the GI Bill, and vocational rehabilitation.

On the other hand, a less-than-honorable discharge may indicate misconduct or other factors that could preclude a veteran from receiving some or all of their benefits. In some instances, veterans with a less-than-honorable discharge have the ability to appeal or apply for a discharge upgrade, which may improve their eligibility for VA benefits. Overall, the Character of Discharge serves as a vital framework for ensuring that deserving individuals receive the support and assistance they need upon completing their military service.

Examples of Character of Discharge

The “Character of Discharge” for VA Benefits refers to a military service member’s separation from the military and what classification their discharge status holds. This status plays a crucial role in determining what kind of benefits a veteran can receive from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Here are three real-world examples of different Character of Discharge:

Honorable Discharge: John served in the U.S. Army for four years without any disciplinary issues or legal problems. He completed his service successfully and was discharged with an Honorable Discharge. As a result, John is eligible for the full range of VA benefits, including health care, educational assistance, home loans, and disability compensation.

General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions: Sarah had a successful career in the U.S. Air Force but encountered some difficulties during her service. She had a couple of minor disciplinary infractions that led her command to decide that she should be separated from the Air Force with a General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions. While Sarah will still qualify for most VA benefits, some, like educational assistance under the GI Bill, may not be available to her.

Other Than Honorable (OTH) Discharge: Mark served in the U.S. Marine Corps but faced significant disciplinary issues, including multiple instances of misconduct, poor performance, and violations of regulations. As a result, he received an Other Than Honorable Discharge upon separation from the military. In this case, Mark may be ineligible for most VA benefits, depending on the specific circumstances of his discharge and whether the VA finds that they constitute a “bar to benefits.”

FAQ Section: VA Benefits – Character of Discharge

1. What is a Character of Discharge?

A Character of Discharge is a classification that determines whether a veteran is eligible for various VA benefits. It is based on their reason for separation from the military and includes categories such as honorable, general, under honorable conditions, other than honorable, bad conduct, and dishonorable.

2. How does my Character of Discharge affect my eligibility for VA benefits?

Your eligibility for VA benefits largely depends on your Character of Discharge. For example, veterans with an honorable or general discharge are typically eligible for most VA benefits, while those with other than honorable, bad conduct, or dishonorable discharges may have limited benefits or no eligibility.

3. Can I change the Character of my Discharge?

In some cases, you may be able to change your Character of Discharge through a process called Discharge Review or a Character of Service Determination. This typically involves submitting a request to the appropriate Discharge Review Board (DRB) or Board for Correction of Military Records (BCMR) within a specified timeframe after your discharge.

4. How can I find out my Character of Discharge?

Your character of discharge can be found in your discharge paperwork, such as your DD Form 214 (Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty), or through the online eBenefits portal, which is the official VA site.

5. What are some common reasons for a less-than-honorable discharge?

Some common reasons for a less-than-honorable discharge include insubordination, absence without leave (AWOL), failure to meet standards, misconduct, drug or alcohol abuse, and criminal convictions. Each military branch has its own guidelines for determining the character of discharge based on the specific circumstances surrounding the separation.

Related VA Benefit Terms

  • Honorable Discharge
  • General Discharge under Honorable Conditions
  • Other than Honorable (OTH) Discharge
  • Bad Conduct Discharge (BCD)
  • Dishonorable Discharge

Sources for More Information