Not everybody retires from the Army. In some cases, soldiers are discharged, which means they are released of all obligations to serve the military. While it may be bad conduct discharge cases that make the news, not all discharges are punitive. Sometimes, a physical or mental condition leads to a discharge under Chapter 5-17 of the Army Regulations, which may be voluntary or involuntary.
If you are discharged from the Army under Chapter 5-17, it means you had a physical or mental condition that prevented you from fulfilling your military duties. Soldiers discharged on the grounds of Chapter 5-17 usually receive an honorable discharge.
Types of Army Discharges
Many types of Army discharges exist, including honorable discharge, general discharge under honorable conditions, bad conduct discharge, dishonorable discharge and entry-level separation. The best type of discharge you can get is an honorable discharge, as this means you met or rose above military conduct and performance standards. This entitles you to all veteran and military benefits. The second best type is general discharge under honorable conditions, which means your military performance was deemed satisfactory. Like an honorable discharge, you're eligible for most veteran and military benefits, including disability compensation and survivor pensions.
A bad-conduct discharge is a punitive discharge imposed by a military criminal trial, or court-martial, and may revoke your benefits entitlement. A dishonorable discharge is the worst type, as it usually means you committed a very serious offense, like desertion, rape or murder. All veteran and military benefits are lost with this discharge. If you aren't suited for the military, you may receive an uncharacterized description of service, an entry-level separation. This can only be given within your first 180 days of service and means that you aren't suited to the military, but your service isn't deemed good or bad. No benefits come with this discharge, unless you were hurt or ill due to service.
Definition of Chapter 5-17
Chapter 5 of the Army Regulations, called Separation for the Convenience of the Government, sets out many administrative discharges, including Chapter 5-17: Other Designated Physical or Mental Conditions. This is comparable to Chapter 5-13: Personality Disorder, but Chapter 5-17 covers conditions that don't meet the medical criteria for "disorder." Examples of conditions that fall under Chapter 5-17 include: chronic airsickness or seasickness, dyslexia, sleepwalking and claustrophobia. The key factor is that the condition causes disturbances, thinking or behavior severe enough to diminish a soldier's ability to carry out his military duties and tasks. Before triggering the Chapter 5-17 separation, the commander must make sure the soldier in question has been sufficiently counseled and offered a chance to be rehabilitated. In some cases, rehabilitation involves changing to a new section or platoon within the same unit or to a new unit entirely. The soldier is advised to consult with an attorney at the beginning of the process and if he opposes the Chapter 5-17 separation, he can put forward a case for consideration before a final decision is made. However, only soldiers with more than six years of active and/or reserve service are entitled to challenge the decision at an Administrative Separation Board.
Consequences of Chapter 5-17
Soldiers discharged on the grounds of Chapter 5-17 receive an honorable discharge unless there are specific elements of their service record that warrant a general discharge. Soldiers with up to 180 days of active duty service may get an uncharacterized description of service. Soldiers with at least six years of active duty service who have completed their initial period of enlistment may be entitled to separation pay following a Chapter 5-17 separation.