If a soldier is dishonorably discharged, are they a veteran?

The question of veteran status for those with non-honorable discharges elicits some visceral reactions from the military community

If a soldier is dishonorably discharged, are they a veteran?

By Military1 Staff

A question recently posted on Quora asks: “If a soldier is dishonorably discharged, are they a veteran?” Check out the answers below and add your own in the comments.

Sam Morningstar

Usually not.

But, there are some unique situations where personal opinions might come into play and some folks would extend the label, unofficially.

The most common situation would be as follows:

Say you have STELLAR career military guy, highly decorated, in leadership positions, saw heavy combat, etc. He comes back from multiple deployments…perhaps looking to retire in the near future…

But, one night he goes out and has a few drinks too many and gets a DUI. Or, lets’s even say he develops an addiction and it’s not just a one-off. Anyway, he gets busted for alcohol-related issue, and gets a less than honorable discharge.

There might be the bureaucratic view that he was not honorably discharged, so the veteran label would be negated. Although, there are other vets - particularly those that were in the real shit - that would not hesitate to extend the veteran status and respect to this individual.

And by the way, this kind of situation does indeed occur.

Frederick Wilson, USCG veteran

People holding less than honorable, general, and other than honorable discharges are still considered veterans and may receive some benefits such as medical care for service connected conditions. Only one type of discharge strips a person of all benefits and of the right to be considered a veteran by the US Government.

That is a Dishonorable Discharge.

A veteran is a former member of the Armed Forces of the United States (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard) who served on active duty and was discharged under conditions, which were other than dishonorable.

Jim Bemis, USAF veteran

A distinction has to be drawn betwixt and between those military members who receive a release from service due to a defective enlistment, general discharge, an other than honorable conditions discharge, a bad conduct discharge, a dishonorable discharge, and a dismissal.

First, a military member released for a defective enlistment typically gets cut loose during basic training or shortly thereafter. In such cases, the enlisted has insufficient time for veteran status.

Second, a general discharge is an administrative discharge, but under honorable conditions. As long as the member has been in for at least three years, they are a veteran.

Third, when a member receives an other than honorable conditions discharge as a form of administrative discharge, it terminates service in a way that might dictate whether veteran status is lost or not. If the member has been through a prior enlistment, and was honorably discharged for that, the later discharge with a UOTHC may make the current enlistment void, but still allows the member veteran status due to the prior honorable service.

The remaining three forms of “bad” discharge (the first two for enlisted, the last one for officers) only occur when the member has been convicted at military court-martial, and received one of those sentences. If that happens the military member most definitely loses their veteran status.