By Laura Briggs
When a Veteran leaves active-duty service, their command will determine the circumstances of their departure. This is a very important distinction because it can influence which benefits the Veteran receives and could potentially be a barrier to future employment, depending on the circumstances. An OTH discharge is not as severe as a dishonorable discharge, but it can still have negative consequences. Types of administrative discharge include:
  • Entry-level separations given to those who separate before completing 180 days of military service or when the discharge action itself was started before 180 days in service (these mostly occur in boot camp).
  • Honorable discharge, which is given to service members who have received a rating anywhere from “good” to “excellent” for their service. They have good conduct, complete tours or duty, and meet or exceed duty performance requirements.
  • General discharge, which means a person’s performance was satisfactory but that they did not necessarily meet or exceed duty and conduct expectations for service members.
  • Other Than Honorable discharge, which marks a departure from expected conduct and performance guidelines for all service members
  • Dishonorable discharge, which can only be determined by a general court-martial for “reprehensible conduct” such as treason, sexual assault, and murder.
Leaving the military with an “Other Than Honorable” discharge can impact that Veteran’s future. Occasionally, this OTH can be overturned to allow a Veteran to access important benefits.

What Is OTH Discharge?

An Other Than Honorable discharge refers to administrative discharges in which your military command can remove you from military service. Disciplinary issues, lapses in military good order, or failing a drug test could all lead to an Other Than Honorable discharge. This is distinct from a bad conduct discharge, which refers to more severe crimes, and a dishonorable discharge, which is typically reserved for spying and treason. This serious kind of separation has long-term consequences. You might have heard of an OTH discharge referred to as a bad paper. An Other Than Honorable discharge refers to some kind of behavior you are accused of by your command that intervened in your ability to fulfill your Armed Forces obligations, meaning that the government does not recognize your time in service. If you have an OTH discharge on your record and you’re not sure what to do, it’s best to evaluate all the consequences and understand the ones that you might be able to appeal or overturn in the future. Sometimes, it is not possible to successfully appeal these in the moment, but you might want access to important benefits down the road.

OTH Discharge Consequences

One of the most significant consequences of an OTH discharge is that you will lose your VA benefits. Furthermore, any enlistment bonuses will be forfeited if you were about to receive one. Some organizations and higher education institutions will ask directly if you got an honorable discharge. With an OTH discharge on your record, you will lose out on federal employment opportunities.

OTH Discharge Upgrade

Service members are eligible to apply for evaluation for Discharge Review Board upgrades. If the Discharge Review Board finds that there are strong factors to explain the conduct behind the discharge, the board will then upgrade the charge. This means that you could potentially receive some VA benefits outside of going through a formal review board. Pursuing an OTH discharge upgrade, however, does not alter your discharge status. The VA evaluates benefits available for a previous service member with an OTH discharge on a case-by-case basis.

OTH Discharge Benefits

There are no benefits or advantages of having an OTH discharge. In fact, you can lose a significant number of benefits, such as the ability to apply for federal employment and get VA benefits. Some OTH discharge VA benefits could be available, depending on whether or not you are able to get your discharge upgraded.

Can I Take out a VA Loan With an OTH Discharge?

In order to receive VA benefits and loan services, the Veteran’s service or character of discharge has to be under other-than-dishonorable conditions. This includes a discharge under honorable conditions and a general discharge. Any military discharge except for dishonorable can be considered for a VA mortgage, but you'll want to do specific research with the lenders you are considering. You might also want to ask, "Can an OTH discharge be upgraded?" or research how to get an OTH discharge upgrade, as this can increase your chances of getting more benefits.

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What Is an OTH Discharge Waiver?

You could be able to obtain a waiver if your original code was issued because of a temporary disability and if you have since recovered or the condition no longer applies. Many people are curious about the waiver because of their intention to reenlist. The reenlistment code assigned to you at the time of an OTH discharge can determine whether or not you are able to do this. RE Code 1 allows you to reenlist without issue. RE Code 2 allows you to reenlist, although restrictions may apply. RE Code 3 means you can normally reenlist, but a waiver will be required. RE Code 4 typically means that a previous service member is not able to reenlist or join another service and may require an exception to policy waiver to reenlist. Since the most severe type of military administrative discharge is under other-than-honorable conditions, most Veterans' benefits are not typically available to those who are discharged without a waiver. You may need to hire an experienced military attorney to help you with trying to change an Other-Than-Honorable discharge. It is very important to hire an attorney with experience in military administrative law. Most people are under the mistaken impression that upgrades can be obtained automatically or easily after six months. If you have more questions about an OTH discharge, it’s best to discuss your concerns with a lawyer.

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