Does an Other Than Honorable Discharge Show Up in a Background Check?

Background check repair icon.Written by Background Check Repair

Background Checks | June 23, 2022

There are several types of military discharge that a military member may receive, and former service members who receive a less than honorable discharge may be wondering “Does an other than honorable discharge show up in a background check?”

With an Other Than Honorable Discharge (OTH), entering the civilian workforce can make some former service members nervous about background check results.

These and other questions are common, so one of the best things that can be done (immediately) is to learn how to do a background check on yourself so that you can see exactly what potential employers will see about your military record.

It all depends on the the exact type of military discharge recorded and whether or not it’s possible to have the discharge upgraded.

This guide provides all the information regarding, “does an other than honorable discharge show up in a background check,” when searching for civilian work.

Does a Military Discharge Show Up on a Background Check?

Before answering the question “Does an other than honorable discharge show up in a background check?” understanding the various types of discharge is necessary.

A military discharge is assigned to individuals when they leave active service to denote the conditions of departure. Each type of discharge is reserved for specific circumstances and falls under one of two types: administrative or punitive.3, 11, 16

Administrative discharges include:

  • Entry-level Separation (ELS)
  • General Discharge (GD)
  • Honorable Discharge (HD)
  • Medical Discharge
  • Other Than Honorable Conditions Discharge (OTH)

Punitive discharges include:

  • Bad Conduct Discharge (BCD)
  • Dishonorable Discharge (DD)
  • Dismissal (Officer Discharge)

Punitive discharges are most likely to coincide with a military conviction and will therefore show up indirectly on a background check through the individual’s criminal record. An OTH is sometimes the result of a civil conviction which would also appear on a criminal record and subsequently a background check.11

Types of Military DischargesDescription
Entry-Level Separation (ELS)An administrative discharge is reserved for service members who depart from service within the first six months.

Individuals are not eligible for veteran benefits.

General DischargeAn administrative discharge is issued to individuals whose military service was satisfactory, but negative marks may prevent receiving an Honorable Discharge.

Individuals are eligible for most veteran benefits, excluding GI Bill Benefits.

Honorable DischargeThis administrative discharge is the most commonly given, indicating that an individual met and exceeded military standards and performed military duties in exemplary fashion or was unable to fulfill duties through no fault of their own.

Individuals are eligible for all veteran benefits.

Medical DischargeAn administrative discharge issued after medical evaluation demonstrates that an individual is unable to continue in service.

Individuals may be eligible for veteran benefits.

Other Than Honorable Conditions Discharge (OTH)An administrative discharge is reserved for individuals whose conduct is not consistent with the moral standards of the military but is not punished within the military (e.g. security violations, civilian sentencing, adultery).

Most cases are ineligible for veteran benefits.

Bad Conduct Discharge (BCD)A punitive discharge is processed through the military justice system and reserved for individuals whose conduct goes against military standards but does not warrant Dishonorable Discharge.

Individuals are not eligible for veteran benefits.

Dishonorable Discharge (DD)A punitive discharge is reserved for the most severe cases after a court-martial process.

Individuals are not eligible for veteran benefits.

Dismissal (Officer Discharge)A punitive discharge is reserved for commissioned officers following a court-martial process.

Individuals are not eligible for veteran benefits.

To recap, of the eight types of military discharge, there are four discharge types that result in adverse effects for the service member. The Uniform Code of Military Justice17outlines how various cases should be handled.

Related Reading: Will a Military Conviction Show up on a Background Check?

Uniform code of military justice screenshot that outlines the rules of a court martial and can indicate does a dishonorable discharge show up in a background check.

  • Other Than Honorable Discharge (OTH)
  • Bad Conduct Discharge (BCD)
  • Dishonorable Discharge (BD)
  • Officer Discharge

An Other Than Honorable discharge is administrative in nature and may be the result of actions such as:14

  • Drug violations
  • Discipline issues
  • Security violations
  • Assault
  • Civil convictions
  • Being found guilty of adultery
  • A pattern of conduct issues

An OTH functions like a firing from a job, and although there is no military court-martial, the individual loses:

  • Rank and pay
  • Benefits
  • Veteran status

A Bad Conduct Discharge is punitive in nature and may be the result of actions such as:14

  • Being intoxicated while on duty
  • Receiving a DUI
  • Being arrested for disorderly conduct

Because it is punitive in nature, a BCD is administered following a court-martial and may result in:11

  • Prison time
  • A fine
  • Pay forfeiture
  • Loss of rank
  • Loss of veteran status
  • Loss of veteran benefits
  • Loss of the right to bear arms

A Dishonorable Discharge is a punitive discharge reserved for the most serious offenses, such as:14

  • Treason
  • Desertion
  • Murder
  • Sexual assault
  • Fraud
  • Espionage

These crimes result in a court-martial which may lead to severe punitive action, and usually results in:

  • Prison time
  • A fine
  • Pay forfeiture
  • Loss of rank
  • Loss of veteran status
  • Loss of veteran benefits
  • Loss of the right to bear arms
  • Disqualification from federal employment
  • Loss of some civilian government benefits

An Officer Discharge may be punitive and is reserved for commissioned officers who have violated the military’s moral standards. Commissioned officers cannot receive a BCD or DD, but instead, receive a dismissal (a.k.a. Officer Discharge) following court-martial conviction.16

What Military Records Show Up on a Civilian Background Check?

What shows up on a background check is a common area of concern for individuals seeking employment. In answering the question “Does an other than honorable discharge show up in a background check?” it is useful to detail the exact information revealed in a civilian background check.

When a veteran discloses military service, the company conducting the civilian background check will obtain the veteran’s discharge papers (Form DD-214) and share permitted information with the employer.3

Permitted information includes:

  • Dates of service
  • Rank at time of discharge
  • Pay at the time of discharge
  • Work and training experience
  • Jobs performed

And excludes:

  • Information related to medical history
  • Information related to discharge

Does Military Discharge Appear: Background Check Records?

A military discharge does not appear on civilian background check searches, though information related to the discharge (e.g. military convictions) may.

Military discharge likely appears on federal background checks, and anytime an applicant seeks a veteran’s preference for a job, they must supply the DD-214.3, 12

Related Reading: How to get a federal background check on yourself.

Does An Honorable Discharge Show Up In A Background Check?

Civilian background checks do not disclose discharge reasons, as a rule.3 However, if an individual is applying for a veteran’s preference, they will submit Form DD-214 to the employer, which does include discharge status. Additionally, a government-level background check will access more comprehensive military records, including discharge information.

All security clearance background check reports will also disclose the reason for the discharge.

Does A Dishonorable Discharge Show Up In A Background Check?

Although discharge status is not part of what an employer is permitted to access during the pre-employment process, Dishonorable Discharge (DD) is often associated with a court-martial and subsequent military conviction, which does show up on an individual’s criminal record.3, 7

Can An Employer Ask About Military Service?

If a veteran discloses military service during a job interview or application, an employer can ask relevant follow-up questions about dates of service, rank and pay, and experience and skills. An employer cannot ask about the reason an individual was discharged.

However, the DD 214 Form is included in under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and can be requested as long as the employer has consent.

This does not apply to government jobs or jobs requiring security clearance.3, 14

Are Court Martial Records Public?

Court-martial records are considered private and therefore not readily available to the general public. A court-martial will appear on an individual’s official military record which is accessible to federal employers.

Furthermore, if a court-martial results in a military conviction, that conviction will appear on an individual’s criminal record, which is public.3

Other Than Honorable Discharge Consequences

So, does an other than honorable discharge show up in a background check? The quick answer is “No, it does not.” However, if the OTH is associated with a civilian criminal conviction, that crime will show up on an individual’s criminal record, and thus, background check.

Although an Other Than Honorable Discharge does not necessarily result in a negative mark on an individual’s criminal record, it does appear permanently on the military record which is accessible to federal employers, making it much more difficult to secure government jobs.

Texas Veterans Commission screenshot with map showig how to find assistance and information about can an employer ask about military service.

Another considerable challenge for individuals with an OTH is the loss of VA benefits.15 While veterans may still be eligible for healthcare benefits for issues related directly to military service, they are not eligible for most other benefits.

Generally, individuals with an OTH discharge are not permitted to re-enlist in the military and likely have trouble obtaining government or security clearance jobs.2

Can You Get A Job With Other Than Honorable Discharge?

It is quite possible to get a job with an Other Than Honorable discharge. Employers for civilian jobs are barred from asking about discharge reasons, and the background check should produce the DD-214 without disclosing discharge status. Therefore, most candidates for civilian jobs will not be impacted by an OTH.

In contrast, an OTH does make it significantly more difficult for an individual to secure a government or security clearance job, as the discharge will be available to federal employers and the individual will likely be competing against other veterans who qualify for veterans’ preference.1, 15

How Long Does An Other Than Honorable Discharge Stay On Your Record

An Other Than Honorable discharge stays on an individual’s military record permanently, unless the individual successfully applies for a discharge upgrade.16

Can You Apply for a Military Discharge Upgrade?

Individuals who believe their military discharge was unjust or not properly handled can apply for a discharge upgrade through the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.18

How to apply for a military discharge upgrade screenshot with yellow arrow pointing to the get started button on the page which can help determine whether an oth discharge background check shows up for civilian employment.

How Hard is it to Get Your Discharge Upgraded?

Having a discharge upgraded is a significant process, and a veteran must have evidence that the discharge was not properly handled to succeed in having it upgraded.16 According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs,18 individuals whose discharge was related to mental health conditions, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma, or sexual orientation have a strong case for a discharge upgrade.

The National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates, Inc. (NOVA)19 is an excellent resource for individuals seeking to upgrade their discharge.

When Can I Upgrade My Discharge?

Upgrading a discharge is possible, but there are some rules. A discharge review must be initiated within fifteen years of the discharge date.16

How do I Get a DD-215?

A DD-215 is issued to amend a DD-214. Individuals who successfully obtain a discharge upgrade receive a DD-215.

For more information, contact local VA resources using the table below.

Find State Veterans’ ResourcesState Departments of Veterans’ Affairs
How Do I Find Alabama Veterans’ Resources?Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find Alaska Veterans’ Resources?Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find Arizona Veterans’ Resources?Arizona Department of Veterans Services
How Do I Find Arkansas Veterans’ Resources?Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find California Veterans’ Resources?California Department of Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find Colorado Veterans’ Resources?Colorado Department of Military and Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find Connecticut Veterans’ Resources?Connecticut State Department of Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find Delaware Veterans’ Resources?Delaware Commission of Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find District of Columbia Veterans’ Resources?Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find Florida Veterans’ Resources?Florida Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find Georgia Veterans’ Resources?Georgia Department of Veterans Service
How Do I Find Hawaii Veterans’ Resources?Hawaii Office of Veterans Services
How Do I Find Idaho Veterans’ Resources?Idaho Division of Veterans Services
How Do I Find Illinois Veterans’ Resources?Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find Indiana Veterans’ Resources?Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find Iowa Veterans’ Resources?Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find Kansas Veterans’ Resources?Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs Office
How Do I Find Kentucky Veterans’ Resources?Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find Louisiana Veterans’ Resources?Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find Maine Veterans’ Resources?Maine Bureau of Veterans Services
How Do I Find Maryland Veterans’ Resources?Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find Massachusetts Veterans’ Resources?Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services
How Do I Find Michigan Veterans’ Resources?Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find Minnesota Veterans’ Resources?Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find Mississippi Veterans’ Resources?Mississippi Department of Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find Missouri Veterans’ Resources?Missouri Veterans Commission
How Do I Find Montana Veterans’ Resources?Montana Department of Military Affairs
How Do I Find Nebraska Veterans’ Resources?Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find Nevada Veterans’ Resources?Nevada Department of Veterans Services
How Do I Find New Hampshire Veterans’ Resources?New Hampshire Department of Military Affairs and Veterans Services
How Do I Find New Jersey Veterans’ Resources?New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find New Mexico Veterans’ Resources?New Mexico Department of Veterans Services
How Do I Find New York Veterans’ Resources?New York State Division of Veterans Services
How Do I Find North Carolina Veterans’ Resources?North Carolina Department of Military & Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find North Dakota Veterans’ Resources?North Dakota Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find Ohio Veterans’ Resources?Ohio Department of Veterans Services
How Do I Find Oklahoma Veterans’ Resources?Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find Oregon Veterans’ Resources?Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find Pennsylvania Veterans’ Resources?Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find Rhode Island Veterans’ Resources?Rhode Island Veterans Services
How Do I Find South Carolina Veterans’ Resources?South Carolina Department of Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find South Dakota Veterans’ Resources?South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find Tennessee Veterans’ Resources?Tennessee Department of Veterans Services
How Do I Find Texas Veterans’ Resources?Texas Veterans Commission
How Do I Find Utah Veterans’ Resources?Utah Department of Veterans & Military Affairs
How Do I Find Vermont Veterans’ Resources?Vermont Office of Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find Virginia Veterans’ Resources?Virginia Department of Veterans Services
How Do I Find Washington Veterans’ Resources?Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find West Virginia Veterans’ Resources?West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance
How Do I Find Wisconsin Veterans’ Resources?Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs
How Do I Find Wyoming Veterans’ Resources?Wyoming Veterans Commission

Not Disclosing Military Service: Can I Keep Silent About Military Service In a Job Interview?

It is never advisable to lie about military service when asked, but there is no law requiring former service members to volunteer that information during a job interview. Therefore, when an individual elects to remain silent about their military service, the background check company does not contact the military to obtain Form DD-214 (discharge papers).5

Applicants should weigh this choice carefully, as a lengthy gap in employment history due to omitting military service may come to attention during application review. Furthermore, individuals may not be able to demonstrate or verify their experience and skills without disclosing military service.

Veterans whose military service has ended under less than favorable conditions may have a difficult time adjusting to civilian life and finding employment. As anxiety about the pre-employment process mounts, knowing the options available and the answer to the question of, “Does an other than honorable discharge show up in a background check?” can help eliminate the stress and work to avoid problems with potential employers.

Frequently Asked Questions About Does an Other than Honorable Discharge Show up in a Background Check

What Is an MEPS Background Check (Military Entry Processing Station)?

The Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) is an organization affiliated with the Department of Defense. There are more than sixty locations nationwide. After an initial meeting with a recruiter, said recruiter will set an appointment for an applicant to visit the nearest MEPS.

At the MEPS, applicants will take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), and undergo a medical evaluation and physical exam. Individuals will undergo a final interview to establish moral fiber. Finally, applicants will consent to a MEPS background check. A MEPS background check is an FBI background check which requires fingerprinting to check local, state, and federal databases for criminal records.10, 13 When feeling nervous about background check, talk to a recruiter about concerns.

What Does an MEPS FBI Background Check Include?

All applicants must consent to the MEPS FBI background check to enlist. This process requires that recruits be fingerprinted so that the prints can be checked against state and federal criminal databases. The MEPS background check will include the following information:6

  • Identity and SSN verification
  • Personal information (marital status, residential status, etc)
  • Employment and work history
  • Financial history (bankruptcies, excessive debt, tax evasion)
  • Driving history
  • Prior military history
  • Social media information
  • Local, state, and federal criminal history

Can Employers Check Military Discharge?

Employers are not permitted to inquire about military discharge as it may lead to the disclosure of private or protected information. If a former military member chooses to disclose military service, the background check company will obtain Form DD-214 from the military and report approved information to the employer. Approved information may include:3

  • Dates of service
  • Rank and pay at the time of discharge
  • Experience and skills acquired

However, there are exceptions to this rule.

  1. If an individual is applying for veteran preference on a job application, all details of discharge will be disclosed.
  2. If an individual is applying for a civil service position or higher-level government job, employers are likely to have access to the complete DD-214.

Are You Considered a Veteran With a Oth Discharge?

Under U.S. law, a veteran is any individual discharged from the military under honorable conditions. Therefore, an individual with an OTH is not considered a veteran and is not eligible for most veteran benefits. Persons with an OTH can still receive covered healthcare for injuries sustained during or related to military service.

However, House Bill 5592,20 passed in 2021, made it possible for individuals with an OTH related to a qualifying condition (military sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder) or sexual orientation or gender identity to have their veteran status reinstated and gain access to full VA benefits.

OTH Discharge Background Check, Will It Impact the Record?

An Other Than Honorable Discharge (OTH) is an administrative discharge rather than a punitive one. This means that there was not a court-martial or criminal conviction within the military. Therefore, the OTH will not impact an individual’s criminal record unless the OTH was the result of a civil conviction. A background check for a government position will reveal military discharge reasons which can impact the application for government employment.1

Does a DD214 Show Up on a Background Check?

The Form DD-214, or discharge papers, records a service member’s dates of service, rank, pay, experience, and discharge status. For an individual who does not disclose military service, a DD-214 does not show up on a typical background check. When an individual divulges military service, the background check company obtains the DD-214 from the military and shares permissible information with the employer.3

When applying for government or security clearance job, the employer has easier access to the DD-214, especially if the applicant is seeking veterans’ preference.4

Will a Military Conviction Show Up on a Background Check?

A military conviction functions much like a civilian conviction, and it shows up on any federal-level background check.8, 12

What Are Some Other Than Honorable Discharge Jobs: Best Options

There are many jobs available to individuals with an OTH on their military record. Since the OTH will not show up on typical background checks, there is a bounty of civilian jobs that an individual may qualify for, especially if the OTH is not associated with a civil conviction.1, 15

This doesn’t mean that government jobs are necessarily off the table for individuals with an OTH, but it does put them at a disadvantage to candidates with an Honorable Discharge applying for veterans’ preference.4, 5

Individuals who approach a job application honestly and provide strong character references have a good chance of overcoming the OTH discharge.9

There are some options for employment, including many retail positions like a Home Depot background check or Walmart background check, but in addition to these, there are tons of other careers that won’t be impacted by OTH discharge.


References

1Avvo. (2015). Does an Other Than Honorable Discharge Show up on a Background Check, Criminal Background Check, etc. Avvo. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from <https://www.avvo.com/legal-answers/does-an-other-than-honorable-discharge-show-up-on--2237941.html>

2Contributing Authors. (2022). What You Need to Know About Other-Than-Honorable Discharge. G.I. Jobs. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from <https://www.gijobs.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-other-than-honorable-discharge/>

3Corporate Compliance Department. (2020, April 2). The Legalities in Considering Military Records For Pre-employment Screening. True Screen. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from <https://www.truescreen.com/resource-center/background-screening/the-legalities-in-considering-military-records-for-pre-employment-screening/>

4Cyburbia. (2013, November 27). Chances of Obtaining a Local, State, or Federal Job With an Other Than Honorable Military Discharge? Cyburbia Urban Planning Community. Retrieved June 3, 2022, from <https://www.cyburbia.org/forums/threads/chances-of-obtaining-a-local-state-or-federal-job-with-an-other-than-honorable-military-discharge.49889/>

5Dayton, D. (2018, August 19). Unemployment After an Other-Than-Honorable Discharge. Chron. Retrieved June 3, 2022, from <https://work.chron.com/unemployment-after-otherthanhonorable-discharge-18835.html>

6Delic, D. (2022, January 14). What Shows up on a Background Check? Spend Me Not. Retrieved June 3, 2022, from <https://spendmenot.com/blog/what-shows-up-on-a-background-check/>

7Gagne, Scherer and Associates. (2015, December 4). 4 Ways a Military Conviction Can Hurt Your Civilian Life. Gagne, Scherer & Associates, LLC. Retrieved June 1, 2022, from <https://ucmjlawyers.com/4-ways-a-military-conviction-can-hurt-your-civilian-life/>

8Gonzalez & Waddington. (2022). Military Defense Lawyer Frequently Asked Questions. Gonzalez & Waddington Attorneys at Law. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from <https://ucmjdefense.com/does-a-military-conviction-go-on-my-civilian-criminal-record-can-i-expunge-a-court-martial.html>

9Kyzer, L. (2021, September 13). Can You Get a Clearance With an OTH Discharge? Clearance Jobs. Retrieved June 4, 2022, from <https://news.clearancejobs.com/2021/09/13/can-you-get-a-clearance-with-an-oth-discharge/>

10Military.com. (2022). What is MEPS, and How do I Deal With It? Military.com. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from <https://www.military.com/join-armed-forces/meps-process-requirements.html>

11Nagele-Piazza, L. (2018, August 28). Think Before Asking About a Veteran’s Discharge STatus. SHRM. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from <https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/state-and-local-updates/pages/think-before-asking-about-veteran-discharge-status.aspx>

12Quora. (2019). Will my Military Discharge Show up Background Check? Quora. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from <https://www.quora.com/Will-my-military-discharge-show-up-background-check>

13Stefanski, R. (2021, December 7). Does the Military Background Check? Felony Record Hub. Retrieved June 1, 2022, from <https://www.felonyrecordhub.com/company-resource/military-background-check/>

14Types of Military Discharge and What They Mean for Veterans. (2022, April 20). Law For Veterans. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from <https://lawforveterans.org/work/84-discharge-and-retirement/497-military-discharge>

15V, R. (2021, March 3). Other Than Honorable Discharge. Operation Military Kids. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from <https://www.operationmilitarykids.org/other-than-honorable-discharge/>

16Veterans Benefits. (2021, July 29). The Different Types of Military Discharge Explained. Benefits.com. Retrieved June 3, 2022, from <https://www.benefits.com/veterans-benefits/types-military-discharge>

17CHAPTER 47—UNIFORM CODE OF MILITARY JUSTICE. (2022). Current. Retrieved June 06, 2022, from <https://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?path=/[email protected]/subtitleA/part2/chapter47&edition=prelim>

18US Department of Veterans Affairs. (2022). How to Apply for a Discharge Upgrade. Discharge upgrade. Retrieved June 06, 2022, from <https://www.va.gov/discharge-upgrade-instructions/>

19NATIONAL ORGANIZATION OF VETERANS’ ADVOCATES, INC. (2020, July 08). “Stuck in Red Tape: How VA’s Regulatory Policies Prevent Bad Paper Veterans From Accessing Critical Benefits”. Retrieved June 06, 2022, from <https://www.congress.gov/116/meeting/house/110852/documents/HHRG-116-VR09-20200708-SD001.pdf>

20Veterans’ Affairs Committee. (2021, March 18). AN ACT REDEFINING “VETERAN” AND ESTABLISHING A QUALIFIED CONDITION REVIEW BOARD. Retrieved June 06, 2022, from <https://www.cga.ct.gov/2021/ba/pdf/2021HB-05592-R000255-BA.pdf>

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