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Suing the Military for Wrongful Discharge

Do you feel you may have been wrongfully discharged? Wrongful discharge can significantly affect a service member’s career, benefits, and reputation. By understanding the facts, potential legal recourse, and various discharge types, you can be better prepared to protect your rights and your future.

Is it possible to sue the military?

It is possible to sue the military, but there are limitations and specific legal procedures involved. As a branch of the government, the military enjoys certain immunities and protections under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. However, in certain situations, service members can file lawsuits against the government, including the military, for wrongful actions or injuries caused by government employees.

One avenue available to initiate a lawsuit against the military is the Federal Tort Claims Act. The FTCA waives the government’s sovereign immunity in cases where individuals have suffered harm due to government employees’ negligence or wrongful acts. This allows service members and civilians to seek compensation for injuries or damages caused by the military or its personnel.

To sue the US military, you’ve got to take the following steps:

Filing an Administrative Claim

Individuals must file an administrative claim with the appropriate military branch before filing a lawsuit. The claim should be submitted in writing, following specific guidelines and within a specified timeframe. The claim has to detail the wrongful action, the harm suffered, and the amount of compensation sought.

Administrative Claim Review

The military will review the administrative claim and investigate the allegations. They may accept the claim, deny it, or negotiate a settlement. It is essential to provide supporting evidence and documentation to strengthen your case during this stage.

Lawsuit in Federal Court

If the administrative claim is denied or you’re unsatisfied with the result, you can file a lawsuit in federal court. This typically involves engaging an attorney experienced in military law and navigating the complex legal process of litigation.

Suing the military can be a complex and challenging process. The specific requirements, timeframes, and limitations can vary. Consider contacting an attorney specializing in military law to understand what legal options are available, evaluate the strength of your case, and help you navigate the complexities of suing the military.

What are the 5 types of military discharges?

The military issues various types of discharges, each carrying different implications for service members. Understanding these types of discharges is important as they can have significant impacts on a service member’s benefits, future employment prospects, and overall reputation.

Honorable Discharge

An honorable discharge is the most favorable discharge that can be awarded to a service member. It is typically granted to those who have served faithfully, fulfilled their military obligations, and met or exceeded the required standards of conduct and performance. This type of discharge indicates that the service member’s service was in accordance with the military’s expectations and is a testament to their honorable service.

General Discharge

A general discharge is given when a service member’s performance is considered satisfactory but falls below the high standards expected for an honorable discharge. It may be issued for various reasons, such as a pattern of minor disciplinary infractions, subpar job performance, or failure to meet specific standards. While a general discharge is less favorable than an honorable discharge, it still allows for certain benefits and entitlements, such as VA healthcare and some education benefits.

Other Than Honorable Discharge

An other than honorable discharge is a less favorable discharge that may be issued for serious misconduct, drug abuse, repeated disciplinary infractions, or other actions that significantly deviate from the military’s standards. This type of discharge can have significant consequences, including the loss of certain benefits and difficulties in finding future employment, as it carries a negative stigma.

Bad Conduct Discharge

BCDs are typically the result of a court-martial conviction for offenses of a serious nature, indicating misconduct or criminal behavior. They’re a form of punishment and are often accompanied by a term of confinement or hard labor. A BCD carries significant long-term consequences, including the loss of military benefits, difficulty finding civilian employment, and the stigma of a criminal record. 

Dishonorable Discharge

A dishonorable discharge is the most severe type of discharge and is usually the result of a court-martial conviction for serious offenses such as desertion, sexual assault, murder, or other grave crimes. It is the military’s strongest condemnation of a service member’s actions and carries severe consequences. If you’re dishonorably discharged, you’ll lose all military benefits, including healthcare, education, and veterans’ benefits. It can even negatively impact your life outside of the military.

Depending on the specific circumstances and branch of service, there can be variations or subcategories within these discharge types. Service members who receive anything other than an honorable discharge should consult with a qualified attorney specializing in military law to understand the full implications and explore any potential avenues for seeking a discharge upgrade.

Can you dispute a military discharge?

Disputing a military discharge is possible. The process will depend on the type of discharge and the circumstances surrounding it. You have a limited timeframe for initiating a dispute is generally limited, so prompt action is crucial.

Here are some avenues that service members may pursue to dispute a military discharge:

Discharge Upgrade

Service members who received a less-than-honorable discharge, such as a general discharge, may be eligible to request a discharge upgrade. This involves submitting an application to the discharge review board within the correct timeframe. The DRB will review the case and consider factors such as post-service conduct, evidence of rehabilitation, and mitigating circumstances.

Correction of Military Records

Service members who believe there are errors or injustices in their military records related to their discharge may pursue a correction of military records. This process involves submitting an application to the appropriate military branch’s Board for Correction of Military Records. The BCMR has the authority to correct factual errors, remove injustices, or update a service member’s discharge characterization.

Appeal to Military Boards

Depending on the circumstances, service members may have the option to appeal their discharge decision to military boards. For example, if a service member believes their discharge was the result of unlawful command influence or other procedural errors, they may appeal to the appropriate board for further review. Each branch of the military has its own specific board for handling discharge appeals.

It is advisable for service members seeking to dispute a military discharge to consult with an experienced attorney specializing in military law. An attorney can provide guidance on the specific procedures, help build a strong case, and advocate for the service member’s rights throughout the dispute process.

What is an unfair discharge from the military?

An unfair discharge from the military refers to a situation where a service member believes their separation from the military was unjust or improperly executed. This can occur due to various reasons, including procedural errors, bias, or unfair treatment during the discharge process. In essence, it involves a departure from the expected standards and principles of fairness.

Examples of factors that may contribute to an unfair discharge include:

Procedural Errors

An unfair discharge may result from procedural errors during the separation process. This can include failing to follow proper regulations, inadequate investigations, or a lack of due process in conducting disciplinary actions.

Bias or Discrimination

An unfair discharge can occur if a service member believes their separation was motivated by bias or discriminatory practices. This could be discrimination based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. Discharging a service member should be based on valid and non-discriminatory reasons.

Violation of Contractual Obligations

An unfair discharge may occur if the military breaches the service member’s enlistment contract terms or fails to adhere to established procedures. For example, if a service member is promised certain benefits or career opportunities but is unjustly denied them without valid justification, it may be considered an unfair discharge.

It is essential for service members who believe they have experienced an unfair discharge to consult with an experienced attorney specializing in military law. An attorney can evaluate the circumstances, review the discharge process, and help determine the appropriate course of action. This may include pursuing a discharge upgrade, correcting military records, or seeking other legal remedies to rectify the unfairness of the discharge.

Suing the military for wrongful discharge

While the military generally has broad discretion in personnel decisions, there are situations where a service member may have grounds for a wrongful discharge lawsuit.

To successfully sue the military for wrongful discharge, you would typically need to show one or more of these factors happened:

Breach of contract

If the military breached the terms of your enlistment contract or violated established procedures in the discharge process, you may have grounds for a wrongful discharge claim.

Violation of constitutional rights

If your discharge violated your constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech, due process, or equal protection, you may have a claim for wrongful discharge.


If your discharge was based on discriminatory factors such as race, gender, religion, or disability, you could possibly pursue a claim for wrongful discharge.

Consult with a qualified attorney experienced in military law to assess the specific circumstances of your case and determine the viability of a wrongful discharge lawsuit.

Can you sue the military for mistreatment?

In cases of mistreatment or misconduct by military personnel or superiors, suing the military for damages might be an option. The FTCA allows people to seek compensation for injuries caused by the negligent or intentional actions of government employees. If you have suffered mistreatment from the military, an attorney can help you explore your options.

Wrongful discharge from the military can have severe ramifications for service members, impacting their benefits, career prospects, and reputation. While suing the military for wrongful discharge is challenging, it is not impossible. If you think you have been wrongfully discharged, consider speaking with an experienced attorney specializing in military law. They can help you assess the circumstances, evaluate potential legal options, and protect your rights. Understanding the various discharge types, legal procedures, and available avenues for dispute can empower you to seek justice and ensure fair treatment within the military justice system.


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