Can Being Dishonorably Discharged from the Military Hurt My Chances of Getting a Job?
Being dishonorably discharged from the military while job hunting creates a unique set of barriers that can prevent veterans from gaining employment after transitioning into the civilian world.
In today’s article, your favorite career services and professional resume writing organization, Empire Resume will discuss the problem surrounding military discharges when it comes to civilian employers. Next, we’ll provide a solution for veterans to take. Then we’ll introduce the loss of benefits with a dishonorable discharge, and how to hunt for a job with this type of military discharge.
Civilian Hiring Authorities Unaware of Military Discharge Types
The fact that many civilian hiring managers do not categorize military separation types poses an issue for veterans. For some managers, as soon as they hear something other than honorable discharge, they dismiss the potential employee.
Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, discharges are classified primarily in two ways:
This type of discharge is handled by a commanding officer.
This type of discharge requires a legal proceeding by a court martial.
Keep in mind, an administrative discharge is more like handing an employee a pink slip for insubordination, a disciplinary discharge is given after legal action for serious offenses like felonies. Disciplinary discharges come in three categories: 1) bad conduct, 2) dismissal, and 3) dishonorable discharge.
So, what’s the problem separating the two?
According to Michael Studenka, a former judge advocate general in the U.S. Marine Corps, “Most of the confusion comes in on the administrative side. It is essentially like a firing. The military says that you are no longer qualified or are no longer the type of employee that we want, so we are going to terminate the relationship.”
But hiring authorities should not assume that an administrative discharge deems one ineligible for hiring as these types of discharges come in three categories: 1) honorable, 2) general discharge under honorable conditions, and 3) other-than-honorable.
For this reason, human resources representatives are recommended to think before asking about a veteran’s discharge status. Attorneys across the United States are cautioning hiring representatives against requiring an honorable discharge for employment purposes.
“There’s a gray area between an honorable discharge and a dishonorable discharge, and civilian hiring managers might unintentionally lump together the different types when they shouldn’t.” – Michael Studenka
Know the Laws in Your State Concerning Your Discharge
If you’re in this situation, you are not alone. Military veterans are seeking changes in hiring rules across the nation. States like Connecticut and Illinois have taken an active approach to preventing discrimination among veterans with less than honorable discharges from the military.
Take the time to research how state and local governments feel about the various discharge types and how they are handling them. Each situation involving a dishonorable discharge can be reviewed on a case by case basis by the potential employer.
When all else fails, if you believe your dishonorable discharge is not justifiable, you have the right to appeal and go before the discharge review board to change your service discharge to correct your DD-214. Normally, the appeal must be done within 3 years of the discharge but exceptions can be made depending upon the circumstances.
Benefits Lost with Dishonorable Discharges
Unfortunately, a dishonorable discharge is the worse type of discharge any one can receive because it is considered to be the maximum punishment. This discharge is frowned upon as it is usually reserved for acts that are criminal in nature such as murder, sexual assault, and the like.
But if you remember, Bowe Berghdal was given a dishonorable discharge, monetary penalties, and a demotion in rank for desertion — leaving his post in Afghanistan in 2009.
The Manual for Courts-Martial states:
“A dishonorable discharge should be reserved for those who should be separated under conditions of dishonor, after having been convicted of offenses usually recognized in civilian jurisdictions as felonies, or of offenses of a military nature requiring severe punishment.”
When a person receives a dishonorable discharge, they lose several benefits they worked so hard for. This includes veterans’ benefits like pension, G.I. Bill and other educational benefits, and home loans.
Additionally, veterans’ preference, the right to bear arms, burial privileges, and even the right to vote can be revoked.
Job Hunting with a Dishonorable Discharge
While being dishonorably discharged may affect the chances of employment, it does not mean that one cannot gain employment.
It may not be easy to find a job with a dishonorable discharge, veteran job finders can prevail. Here’s some helpful tips on how to navigate the employment search:
- Locate employers that do not perform background checks
- Be straightforward and honest about your discharge on job applications
- Be prepared to explain the nature of the discharge
- Have at least three amazing character references to vouch for you
Be Prepared for the Consequences of a Dishonorable Discharge
There’s no doubt that searching for a civilian job as a veteran is a challenge. With the tedious tasks of writing resumes, submitting applications, and preparing for an interview, the act of getting a job is a job within itself.
After exhausting all options and there’s no way the dishonorable discharge is going away, veterans should be prepared to accept the consequences. As unfortunate as they may be, they are a part of life.
At least with this information, veterans and civilian employers will take notice of the steps they need to take when handling a delicate situation such as dishonorable discharges when it comes to navigating employment.
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Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for service-members transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and was responsible for leading nuclear missile security. Phillip is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and holds a BA in Communications from The Ohio State University, an MS in Instructional Technology, an MBA in Finance, and a PhD in Finance.