If you had a drug problem while in the Army and were discharged as a result, the impact on your life is far-reaching and generally unpleasant. Since dishonorable and bad conduct discharges are equivalent to criminal convictions in the civilian world, you may encounter issues with getting loans and finding employment. However, it doesn't have to be the end of the world if you're willing to work hard to make amends, and remain honest with friends, family and future employers about your issue.
If your issue was drug abuse, more than likely you went to ASAP rehab or were offered it. If you refused to go or had other drug-abuse related charges stick like theft or lying to a superior, this is where your real issues start. If you sold drugs along with using them, a dishonorable discharge is almost certain.
Punishment for drug abuse felonies under the UCMJ, or Uniform Code of Military Justice, normally mandate incarceration or, if you're lucky, just a dishonorable discharge or bad conduct dischrage and referral to a civilian rehab center. The terms of your dismissal, the time you serve or other punishments depend on other illegal stuff you did to support your habit. You always retain the right to appeal your discharge, and while you won't be re-instated, the charges may be amended to a non-criminal offense. You should take this course of action immediately to minimize difficulty in getting a job, lease or car loan once you're out for good.
One of the major penalties for a dishonorable discharge from the Army is getting cut off from government aid. This makes it hard to get back on your feet once you're discharged. If you had plans to use the G.I. Bill to further your education after you got out, kiss that goodbye. You also need to foot the bill for your own health insurance, since the government no longer views you as a veteran. As a result, any pay you missed out on while in the Army but going through your legal mess will be forfeited.
Outcast from Society
Like it or not, you're seen by potential employers, private loan providers and others as a convicted felon. While this may seem harsh, dishonorable discharges transfer over to your civilian criminal record unless you can get the charges knocked down. Even purchasing a gun for protection will be short-circuited during your background check. If you hope to fall back on a government job should the private sector turn its back on you, that is also not an option.
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