What Is a General Discharge From the Military?

A general discharge from the military means that a service member’s completion of military service was less than honorable. Illness, injury or unacceptable behavior, such as drug abuse, may lead to a general discharge.

Although the veteran is still eligible for VA disability and most other benefits, a general discharge may exclude participation in the GI Bill or service on veterans’ commissions and other programs that require an honorable discharge. A commander must report in writing the reasons for the general discharge. Service members must sign documents acknowledging that “substantial prejudice in civilian life” may be encountered under a general discharge.

Four additional types of military discharges are honorable, other than honorable, bad conduct and dishonorable. Everyone who serves in the military receives one of these five types of discharge.