When a commander wants to separate you (basically, firing you from your job as a servicemember), and for whatever reason doesn’t want to go to the effort of convening a court-martial against you, he can seek an administrative discharge. This can take place alone, or in addition to other disciplinary action, such as nonjudicial punishment under Article 15.
The different services have different regulations regarding administrative discharge, including whether and when you would be entitled to an administrative discharge board. An administrative discharge board is a hearing comprised of three officers from your command, who hear evidence from the government and the respondent’s defense (you are called the respondent), and make a recommendation about retention or separation.
How an Administrative Discharge Differs from a Court-Martial
Unlike in a court-martial, the rules of evidence do not apply at an administrative discharge board (which means that hearsay and similar types of material are considered), and the government must prove its case not beyond a reasonable doubt, but only by a preponderance of the evidence (meaning, more likely than not, or 51%).
If it votes to separate you from the service for misconduct, an administrative discharge board can recommend one of three possible characterizations of service: a) Honorable; b) General (Under Honorable Conditions); or c) Other Than Honorable (OTH). An OTH discharge results in the loss of veteran’s benefits. A General discharge normally results in the loss of the GI Bill benefit.
The administrative discharge board decision tree (in the case of separation for misconduct) looks like this:
1) Has it been proven by a preponderance of the evidence that misconduct was committed, and that the respondent committed it?
2) If the answer is yes, should the respondent be separated or retained in the service?
3) If the respondent is to be separated, what is the appropriate characterization of service?
4) Does the board recommend that the separation be suspended?
It is possible to appeal the decision of an administrative discharge board, but the chances of success are generally quite low.