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There are three characterizations of administrative discharge:
When a military member is facing involuntary administrative discharge, the characterization of the discharge is normally either General or Under Other Than Honorable Conditions. Because an Honorable Discharge is the top characterization of administrative discharge, that is not normally the characterization for an involuntary administrative discharge.
In addition, a Military Academy Cadet could face disenrollment, which is also a type of administrative discharge.
There are other types of military discharge that are not administrative discharges. These are “punitive discharges.” A Dismissal, Dishonorable Discharge, or Bad Conduct Discharge are not administrative discharges, they are punitive discharges that can only be adjudged as a part of a court-martial sentence. It is important to understand the difference.
The different military branches refer to involuntary administrative discharge in different terms:
For military officers, involuntary administrative discharge action can be referred to as:
Depending on the rank or years of service of the military member, and/or the characterization of administrative discharge sought by the military, the military member may be entitled to a formal administrative discharge board hearing.
This hearing is a litigated administrative board hearing that looks similar to a trial with fewer evidentiary rules. Evidence is admitted, witnesses are questioned and cross-examined, arguments are made by the attorneys for each side to the administrative board members, and those board members deliberate and return their recommendation about the proposed discharge.
An involuntary administrative discharge action can have serious, long lasting consequences. Not only does an involuntary administrative discharge end the member’s military career, it can terminate the military benefits and entitlements the military member has been accruing over his/her career, the GI Bill may be lost, it prevents the military member from retiring and it can have a lasting stigma and impact on future civilian job searches and educational opportunities (such as seeking college or graduate school admission). Given these possible consequences, experienced and aggressive defense representation is crucial in an involuntary administrative discharge action, hearing, or appeal.
Discharged military members can appeal the discharge, as well as appealing the characterization of the discharge, reason for the discharge, and/or reenlistment eligibility code (RE Code). If a military member is administratively discharged, his/her appeal opportunities include the Discharge Review Board (DRB) for the military service branch and the Board of Corrections for Military Records (BCMR)(or BCNR for Navy/USMC) for the military service branch.
Defending military members facing involuntary administrative discharge or appealing an administrative discharge is what civilian defense lawyers Richard V. Stevens and Frank J. Spinner do. The only type of law they handle is military law. Mr. Stevens and Mr. Spinner are civilian criminal defense attorneys and former military JAG lawyers who exclusively defend military members stationed around the world who are facing military trials, discharge/separation, appeals, discipline, and investigations.