Of the different types of military discharges, none is as damaging to your reputation and civilian life as a dishonorable discharge. To get one you have to commit a serious infraction, even a criminal one, according to the "Army Times." A dishonorable discharge is the punitive result of a court martial. While it is possible to approach the Army's Board for Correction of Military Records (BCMR) to ask for a change in discharge status, the chances of being successful are slim.
Impact on Benefits
Military enlistment comes with an array of attractive benefits and incentives that will outlast your time in the Army, from the Montgomery G.I. Bill for educational expenses to housing loans and grants. However, when you receive a dishonorable discharge you forfeit virtually every benefit, says the "Fort Hood Sentinel," even if your service before your misconduct was without blemish.
Once you've been dishonorably discharged, you can no longer own a firearm, according to the state of Oregon's website. You are restricted from voting and can no longer apply for government assistance, even if you need it. You will be disqualified for educational loans and grants funded by the government, making getting into college difficult, and you'll no longer be eligible for bank loans, either, which will drastically impact your ability to own your own home.
Reputation and Work
In addition to these consequences, being dishonorably discharged carries a stigma. The person receiving it is viewed as untrustworthy by both the military and civilian population. Getting a job even at a private firm will prove difficult, points out the state of Oregon, as most positions require an investigation into your background, which will reveal the details of your Army career. It's a blemish on your personal and professional record that is far-reaching and long-lasting.
Change in Status
It isn't possible to overturn a court martial conviction, says military attorney Stephen Karns, but it is possible to change the discharge status and the reason for discharge. You must approach the Army's BCMR within three years of your discharge, though exceptions are made on occasion. The burden is on you to prove that your discharge was unfair or that the facts were misrepresented. Showing that you've lived a good life since won't sway the board on its own but it may help establish your good name. Getting the help of an experienced military attorney may be your best hope of succeding.
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