Discharge Board
Military and Veterans Law Center of San Diego, CA

What is an Administrative Discharge Board?

An Administrative Discharge is Bound by Military Law.

If a service member receives a discharge from an administrative board, their previous service will be characterized by one of three designations. Each has distinct implications for a service member’s post-military life – especially their employability in the civilian sector, whether here in San Diego or anywhere else in the world.

If you face the possibility of discharge, it is crucial to present a compelling case to the board to make the final decision as favorable as possible – or reverse the discharge decision altogether. The decisions of discharge boards are governed by military administrative law, making advocacy by a knowledgeable attorney an invaluable asset.


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    If a service member is facing discharge – that is, involuntary release from military service – then he or she will likely have a hearing before an Administrative Discharge Board. During the hearing, the board will consider the evidence and hear any defense offered by the service member or their representation.

    Discharge is not unlike being let go from a job. In the civilian world, being “laid off” means something very different from being “fired,” even if the immediate effects (i.e., losing your job) may be the same. Similarly, there are different types of military discharge, each with unique implications; discharge can also happen for a variety of reasons, not all of them conduct-related.

    Hearing Procedure and Types of Discharge

    In addition to misconduct such as drug abuse, violent behavior, or civilian offenses, there are potential grounds for discharge that are not conduct-related. These may include performance, fitness, and mental or physical health. Whatever the cause, if a service member receives a discharge from an administrative board, they will receive one of the following designations:

    • Honorable The best possible designation, an honorable discharge, may prevent future re-enlistment in the armed forces but is nonetheless looked on favorably by employers. It also allows the service member to retain their rights under the Veterans’ Administration and Department of Defense.
    • General under honorable conditions – This designation reflects service that was adequate if not exemplary. Although a service member retains most VA benefits with this discharge, it is still viewed as a step down from honorable discharge and can cause problems with employment.
    • Under other than honorable conditions – Although not as severe as dishonorable discharge (which cannot be performed by an administrative board), this designation still reflects generally inadequate service. It removes most rights under the VA and DoD and can be a serious impediment to employment.

    Although the top-down nature of discharge decisions can be intimidating, it is essential to remember that administrative discharge boards are subject to stringent due process requirements. These requirements may provide an opening to fight against an unfavorable discharge decision. In some cases, a discharge status can be suspended. Alternatively, a case can be forwarded to the higher General Court Martial Convening Authority (GCMA).

    A Military Lawyer can Save Your Career

    In addition to cutting short a military career, administrative discharge can have an enduring negative effect on a service member’s life. Ideally, with legal help, a discharge is avoided altogether; failing that, you want the most favorable discharge status possible. However, defending oneself against the military administrative system is a tall order, to say the least, and an experienced legal advocate helps immeasurably.

    As a lawyer that’s spent two decades practicing criminal law and defending members of the armed forces from San Diego to San Antonio, Stephen Brodsky is well-versed in the many complexities of military administrative law. As a veteran, he understands the lifelong significance of military service and the importance of how it ends. If your San Antonio area military career could use his help, contact us today.