The VA struggles to help those with OTH Discharges
General Military Questions

Other Than Honorable Discharge

Suppose you are considering the military and reviewing what happens once you leave the service for civilian life. In that case, you may have come across something called an Other Than Honorable Discharge (OTH).

When service members leave the military, they do so under a variety of circumstances.

Sometimes the separation happens after fulfilling all the duties of the obligation of the branch of the military.

However, there are times where the discharge from the military happens before the obligation is met.

When this happens, sometimes there is often no one at fault, and the parting is on good terms.

When the parting is due to a negative reason, the discharge may be for reasons that are not honorable.

Related Article8 Types of Military Discharge 

1. What is an Other Than Honorable Discharge?

A conviction in a Civilian Court may lead to an OTH Discharge

An Other Than Honorable Discharge (OTH) falls into the category of an undesirable discharge.

This sort of discharge is considered an administrative discharge initiated by your command.

Often, an OTH is referred to as a ‘bad paper’, and this category of discharge has a lasting impact on a service member.

Typically, this character of discharge is an indication of behavior problems while in service that is not compatible with the military.

Also, this pattern of behavior proved to persist even after redirection from a superior.

2. Other Than Honorable vs. Honorable Discharge

An Honorable discharge means you fulfilled your contract, or obligation, to the service, and you may go back into the civilian world with all the benefits afforded veterans.

An Honorable discharge is the most common discharge.

On the other hand, an Other Than Honorable discharge means your behavior got in the way of fulfilling your obligation to the Armed Forces. In this case, there is no recognition of your service.

3. Reasons for an Other Than Honorable Discharge  

Often, a service member receives an OTH discharge because of a conviction in a civilian court that concludes with prison confinement.

Another possibility is the members are found guilty of adultery in a civilian court. In this case, it will not lead to prison time, but it could lead to an OTH discharge.

Also, security violations in the military are one reason for a discharge, as is the use of violence.

Often, a service member accepts the discharge instead of facing a court-martial or other punitive consequence for behavior that poorly reflects the military and its values.

4. OTH Discharge Consequences

Problems with VA Benefits after OTH Discharge

One significant consequence of an Other Than Honorable discharge is the loss of VA benefits.

Also, you lose out on federal employment opportunities.  

If you were in-line for a bonus for enlistment, you will likely forfeit it altogether.  

While some situations do not ask about your military service, some employers and schools for higher education explicitly ask if you received an honorable discharge.

Related ArticleBad Conduct Discharge (BCD)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

We address commonly asked questions below.

5. How Bad Is an OTH Discharge?

An Other Than Honorable Discharge is referred to as ‘bad paper,’ and having the OTH discharge listed on your DD 214 has a lasting impression on the service member’s life.

The OTH is not as bad as a punitive discharge, but service members note life-long challenges based on the distinction.

6. Can You Get a Government Job with an OTH Discharge?

Federal jobs require an Honorable discharge to qualify for employment.

Therefore, an OTH will bar you from federal employment.

7. Are There Any Benefits to an OTH Discharge?

Not only is there no upside to having an OTH discharge on your service record, but you also lose your VA benefits, as well.

8. Can an OTH Discharge Be Upgraded?

Yes, service members can apply for consideration for an upgrade with the Discharge Review Board.

If the Discharge Review Board agrees there are compelling reasons to explain the discharge, the board will upgrade the discharge.

Also, there is another avenue to receive some, but not all, benefits through the VA without going through a review board.

This avenue does not change the discharges status, though.

The VA determines benefits on a case-by-case basis and may agree a service member deserves some benefits even with a OTH discharge.

9. Does an OTH Discharge Show up on a Background Check?

A OTH discharge will not show up on a regular background check.

However, if you try to return to the military, seek out federal employment, or need to apply for a security clearance, you will have your OTH discharge show up on a check.

10. Can I Get a VA Loan with an OTH Discharge?

Yes and No. If the Other Than Honorable discharge didn’t occur during your first term, then you were once honorably discharged and could qualify for a VA loan. However, if the OTH discharge in fact DID occur during your first term, than you would not be eligible.

Related ArticleGeneral Discharge: 10 Things You (probably) Didn’t Know


When a service member separates from the service, they receive paperwork that indicates the character of their discharge.

In some cases, a service member receives an Other Than Honorable Discharge.

Often, the OTH discharge follows a conviction in a civilian court, especially if that conviction leads to time incarcerated.

Also, security violations and repeated episodes of violence lead to an OTH discharge.

Once this type of discharge is on your service record, congress no longer recognizes you as a veteran.

However, in some cases, a review board might upgrade the discharge.

Also, the VA has a review process where they may award some benefits on a case-by-case situation.

There are other long term consequences, as well.

For instance, rejoining the military or obtaining a job with a security clearance is impossible.


See Also: 

Honorable Discharge: 8 Things You Might Not Know

How To Check If Someone Was In The Military

Rob V.
Latest posts by Rob V. (see all)
Other Than Honorable Discharge

Other Than Honorable Discharge

4.7 out of 5 (29 Ratings)

Learn more about Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharges, including the reasons one is given, the consequences and repercussions, and how to upgrade an OTH discharge.

Originally posted on 10/15/20

Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you click and purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products I have personally vetted. Learn more.

3 Replies to “Other Than Honorable Discharge

  1. Your information is inaccurate. If the OTH discharge didn’t occur during your first term. Then you were once honorably discharged and therefore can qualify for a VA loan.

  2. Got an OTH discharge from the NAVY over a failed drug test in 1993. I was young and dumb as we all once were and popped on a drug test after leaving Panama. Got sent home and I put it all behind me and got married had kids and worked my ass off taking care of them. Tried a few years ago to have it changed to honorable and they said I wait to long to apply. Don’t drank or use drugs anymore I am a God fearing man, active member of society, beautiful family great job but got a OTH on my record. I guess life sometimes is not fair but God always is.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *