Background Investigations

Listing Military Service and Discharge Types on Your Background Investigation Application

As an extension to my previous post about listing employment terminations on the investigative forms, listing accurate and complete military service information is also very important. In numerous cases I have come across instances where an applicant is less than candid when listing their military service. The SF-86 asks “Have you EVER served in the U.S. military”? If you served on active duty and subsequently served in an active National Guard or Reserve component then you are required to list each separately. It then asks if you were discharged and if so, what type. The OF-306 (Declaration for Federal Service) also asks for military service data and type of discharge. This is where a lot of applicants get in trouble.

General Discharge vs. Honorable Discharge

A General discharge under honorable conditions is not the same as an Honorable discharge. Yet, time after time I see applicants who underwent some type of disciplinary actions or just stopped attending drills and were given General discharges list it on the investigative paperwork as an Honorable discharge. Or, they fail to list all periods and types of military service (e.g., National Guard service where they were given a General discharge for absenteeism). When the investigation comes back flagged for material falsification and/or lack of candor they now have to answer to why they provided false or misleading information.

I always provide this advice when asked about providing information on the forms: when in doubt, disclose the information to prevent any appearance of dishonesty or lack of candor. More often than not, unless it was a Bad Conduct or Dishonorable discharge, the reasons for the discharge will not result in an adverse decision unless the conduct or reason for the discharge is specific to the position you are applying for. Overcoming the deliberate falsification or omission of required information is a more serious issue that strikes right at the heart of a potential employer being able to trust you to work for them.

Comment Archive

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    How about an uncharacterized discharge? I’m in sort of a unique situation with mine. I’ve been a cop now for over 10 years. In 2010, though, I decided to join the National Guard. By the time I left for BCT, I was having some personal problems. I’ll refrain from giving you a sob story. End result, I ended up with an entry level separation for “failure to meet medical procurement standards,” uncharacterized discharge for anxiety/depression. I came home, dealt with the problem (went to counseling and was on medication for a little while), and have resumed my civilian law enforcement career with no problems. Currently, I am in the process for a Federal LE job that requires a public trust background investigation. I’ve disclosed everything, thus far. I received a conditional offer of employment. From an admin standpoint, so far, things seem to be ok. But I’m worried that the uncharacterized discharge will come back to haunt me during the background check because I will begin employment before it is completed. I even had an independent psych eval done last year (by the doctor who treated me) that states that I am in good health and symptom free. Will this be enough to mitigate the issue?

  2. Avatar

    Matt, it sounds like you have hit all of the areas that would mitigate any concerns and a big plus is that you were up front and honest about it, which is what is usually the biggest issue when applicants don’t disclose the information.