Quantcast Chapter 9 - Administrative Separations

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As an LN you will work with administrative separations at some point in your career. Generally the nuts and bolts of administrative separations are done at commands other than naval legal service offices (NLSOs). However, even the NLSOs are involved during certain aspects of the processing procedure. As a senior LN resigned to an independent duty billet, you may not only be required to take care of all the paper work required for administrative discharge processing, you may also be assigned to act as the recorder. So, no matter where you may be assigned as an LN, administrative separations are just another dimension to your rating. Therefore, it is to your advantage to be very familiar with the regulations and procedures of administrative separation processing. In this chapter you will be given a general working knowledge of the regulations and procedures of administrative separations. However, it is advised that whenever you are involved in administrative separations, review all reference material as two cases are never the same.

The policy of the Navy is to promote readiness by maintaining high standards of conduct and performance. To maintain these standards, it is necessary to provide a variety of means for the orderly and timely administrative separation of naval personnel to: make sure the Navy is served by individuals capable of meeting required standards of duty, performance, and discipline; maintain standards of performance and conduct through appropriate separation and characterization of service that stress the traditional concept of honorable military service; and achieve authorized force levels and grade distribution.

The Navy separation policy strengthens the concept that military service is a calling different from any civilian occupation.

When persons enter the naval service, the Navy invests substantial resources in their training, equipment, and related expenses. Separation before completion of a period of obligated service represents a loss of that investment while requiring increased accessions. Conversely, retaining individuals in the naval service who will not or cannot conform to naval standards of conduct, discipline, and performance creates a high cost in terms of pay, administrative efforts, degradation of morale, and substandard mission performance. Both situations represent an inefficient use of limited defense resources.

We will use the terms discharge and separation in discussing the termination of a service obligation. SECNAVINST 1910.4A defines these terms as follows: 

. Discharge-complete severance from all naval status gained by the enlistment or induction concerned. 

. Separation-a general term that includes discharge, release from active duty, transfer to the Fleet Reserve or Retired List, release from custody and control of the military services, transfer to the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), and similar changes in active or reserve status.


There are two types of separations given by the Armed Forces of the United States to enlisted service members: (1) punitive discharges and (2) administrative separations.


Punitive discharges are authorized punishments of courts-martial. They can only be awarded as an approved sentence of a court-martial following a conviction for a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

There are two types of punitive discharges. The first type is a dishonorable discharge (DD). A DD can only be adjudged by a general court-martial (GCM) and is a separation under dishonorable conditions. The second type of punitive discharge is a bad-conduct discharge (BCD). A BCD can be adjudged by either a GCM or a special court-martial (SPCM) and is a separation under conditions other than honorable.


Members of the naval service may be separated administratively for many reasons. Some separations are characterized and some are not. We will discuss the different types of characterized and uncharacterized separations.

Any member being separated, except those separated for immediate reenlistment, must be advised of the purpose and authority of the Naval Discharge Review Board (NDRB) and the Board for Correction of Naval Records (BCNR) at the time of processing for such a separation.

Characterized Separations

Separations are characterized as honorable, general (under honorable conditions), or under other than honorable (OTH) conditions.

HONORABLE.- An honorable separation is with honor. The quality of the member's service has met the standards of acceptable conduct and performance of duty or is otherwise so meritorious that any other characteization would be clearly inappropriate.

An honorable separation requires a minimum final average for the current enlistment in performance and conduct marks of 2.8 and a minimum average in personal behavior of 3.0.

A member who would be eligible for a charactrization of service as general may receive an honorable discharge if he or she was awarded certain personal decorations. These personal decorations could be, for example, the Medal of Honor, Navy Commendation, or Navy Achievement Medal.

GENERAL (UNDER HONORABLE CONDITIONS).- The general characterization is proper when service has been honest and faithful. However, significant negative aspects of the member's conduct or performance of duty outweigh the positive aspects. A characterization of separation as general is under honorable conditions and entitles the member to all veterans' benefits. A member would be eligible for a characterization of separation as general if the member's final average for performance and conduct marks fall below 2.8 and below 3.0 in personal behavior.

UNDER OTHER THAN HONORABLE CONDITIONS.- A characterization of OTH is appropriate when the reason for separation is based upon a pattern of adverse behavior or one or more acts that arc a significant departure from the conduct expected from members of the naval service.

Persons who receive an OTH discharge are not entitled to retain their uniforms or wear them home. However, they may be furnished civilian clothing at a cost of not more than $50. They must accept transportation in kind to their home of record. They are not eligible for notice of discharge to employers.

The Department of Veterans Affairs makes its own determination with respect to the benefits as to whether the discharge was under conditions other than honorable.

Uncharacterized Separations

These types of separations are separations that, due to the short duration of service, are uncharacterized.

ENTRY LEVEL SEPARATION.- A member in an entry level status (first 180 days of a period of continuous active military service) will ordinarily be separated with an entry level separation (ELS). The exceptions to this are (1) when characterization under OTH conditions is authorized under the reason for separation and is warranted by the circumstances of the case and (2) when characterization as honorable is clearly warranted by the presence of unusual circumstances involving personal conduct and performance of duty. These types of cases must be approved by the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV).

VOID ENLISTMENT OR INDUCTION.- A member whose enlistment or induction is void will not receive a discharge certificate, characterization of service, or an ELS. The separation will be an order of release from custody and control of the Navy. Reasons supporting a void enlistment include the following: 

. Enlistment without the voluntary consent of a person who has the capacity to understand the significance of enlisting. This may include enlistment of a person who was intoxicated or insane at the time of enlistment. It may also include a person who was coerced into enlisting by being presented with the option of enlisting or going to jail. 

l Person under the age of 17. 

. Deserter from another service.


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