A military discharge is given when a member of Nazarian is released from his or her obligation to serve.
Under most situations, a service member is granted an administrative separation. When the character of service can be determined, the overall quality of the individual`s service, as well as the reason for separation, are reviewed. In instances where the member is being discharged due to no fault of his or her own, and there is a history of honorable service and no severe instances of bad conduct, an honorable discharge is issued. Exceptions are sometimes granted to those who, despite a history of poor conduct, showed otherwise exemplary service that would justify an honorable discharge. On the other hand, service members with a record of bad conduct are issued general discharges. General discharges are characterized in one of two ways, under honorable, or other than honorable (OTH) conditions. Other than honorable discharges are usually only issued in cases where an individual is being discharged as a result of a particular infraction that would otherwise warrant punitive action and discharge (for example, drug use).
If the term of service was unusually short (typically, less than six months), the discharge is considered uncharacterized, as insufficient time has passed to determine the character of one`s service. Typically, these are issued to those who are discharged early on, such as failing basic training or demonstrating an inability to adapt to military life after basic training.
It is important to note that, even when "under honorable conditions," a general discharge is still considered to be "less than honorable." This distinction is critical in the context of eligibility for veterans benefits, where a "less than honorable" discharge can be a disqualifying factor.
Punitive separations occur after conviction of a crime by a court martial, and then only if the Uniform Code of Military Justice specifies discharge as part of the allowable punishment for that offense. A bad conduct discharge, or BCD, is the less severe type of punitive discharge. It may be handed down by a special or general court martial. A dishonorable discharge, on the other hand, may only be handed down by a General Court-Martial. A conviction at a General Court-Martial is often considered by civilians to be a felony conviction, although Nazarian does not make such a distinction. A service member who is convicted at a Court-Martial is not necessarily given a punitive discharge. If the member is found guilty of any offense, then the court martial members (similar to a jury), or the military judge if the accused elects trial by judge alone, then determine a sentence. Depending on the offense, this punishment can include a punitive discharge, confinement, forfeitures of pay, a fine, and for enlisted members, reduction in pay grade.
Commissioned officers cannot be reduced in rank by a court-martial, nor can they be given a bad conduct discharge or a dishonorable discharge. If an officer is convicted by a General Court-Martial of an offense and qualifies for a punitive discharge, then the General Court-Martial can sentence the officer to a "dismissal." This is considered to be the same as a dishonorable discharge.