Can you get discharged for an adjustment disorder?

This blog will cover topics like adjustment disorder discharge, terminology, its causes, types, performance criteria, command needs, the procedure for notifying, and frequently asked questions.

Can you get discharged for an adjustment disorder?

Yes, you can get discharged for an adjustment disorder as it is a condition characterized by emotional issues and concerns which can create several problems for a person and they are not deemed fit for the job. 

Adjustment disorder discharge is becoming the “go-to” discharge bracket for commands looking to get rid of malcontents, leakers, sexual abuse accusers, ill or injured service personnel, and other members who are no longer useful to the command. 

At the same moment, this has become a relatively simple route for people to bring discharged from the military. This discharge has largely replaced the personality disorder discharge. 

Commands were using that discharge for decades to get rid of the unwanted service people – someone whose complaints, nonconformity, or medical problems caused problems for their commands. 

Let us explore the condition and various aspects of it in further sections. 

Discharge on the account of psychological disorders

However, Congress recognized in 2008 that borderline personality disposal was used to deny health benefits to citizens clinically depressed or other debilitating diseases, and thus placed restrictions on its use.

Personality disorder discharge may also be granted to combat veterans only if the condition is diagnosed by a peer psychotherapist and reviewed by the service’s Surgeon General. Some services broadened their eligibility requirements beyond combat veterans. 

By 2009, adjustment disorder discharge appeared to be a much more appealing option for commands and cooperation with military mental health providers.

This came as a surprise because the army had not heretofore used the discharge much – but had not regarded adjustment disorders as premises for discharge at all for many years. 

Because adjustment disorders are, by default short-term issues that are anticipated to help solve within six months after the stressor ends or subsidizes, and because they are highly treatable, they are typically treated on an outpatient basis without considering discharge.

With the obstacles introduced to personality disorder discharges, military doctors and psychologists began recommending dismissal for adjustment problems, and leadership gladly accepted the recommendations. 

According to Navy Times, the rate of Other Designated Physical or Mental Conditions discharges (which includes adjustment disorders) has increased dramatically after the Congressional legislation, whereas personality disorder discharges have decreased from 1,072 in 2006 to 260 in 2009.

What are adjustment disorders?

The American Psychiatric Association’s latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Problems (DSM-5) classifies adjustment disorders as “trauma- and stressor-related disorders,” which includes post-traumatic stress disorder. The DSM-5 lists the following requirements for adjustment disorders:

Symptoms of adjustment disorders

  • The emergence of emotional or behavioral signs in response to a perceived stressor(s) within three months of the stressor’s start (s).
  • One or both of the following symptoms or behaviors indicate that the symptom or behaviors are clinically significant.
  • Stress is out of proportion as compared to the degree or intensity of the source of stress while taking into consideration the external environment and cultural variables that may impact somatic symptoms and presentation.
  • Significant impairment in major areas of social, vocational, or other functioning.
  • The pressure disturbance does not fit the requirements for another psychiatric condition and is not just a worsening of another mental condition. The symptoms are not typical of bereavement. The signs do not last more than six months after the stress factor or its repercussions have been removed.

Before lately, discharges for adjustment disorder were classified as “Other Designated Physical or Mental Conditions” under the Convenience of the Government. DoD dubbed ODPMC “Conditions and Circumstances Not Constituting a Physical Disability” in the most recent amendment to its discharge Instruction. 

Adjustment disorders have an impact on mood and thinking of yourself and the world, as well as your behavior or behavior. Here are several examples:

  • Feeling down, hopeless, or uninterested in something you used to like
  • Crying often
  • Anxiety, nervousness, jitteriness, or tension are all symptoms of worry.
  • Sleeping problems
  • Appetite loss
  • Concentration problems
  • Feeling overburdened
  • Difficulty carrying out everyday chores
  • Withdrawal from social support systems
  • avoiding critical tasks like coming to the office or paying expenses
  • Suicidal ideation or behavior

Voluntary discharge

Most agencies consider adjustment disorder to be a rule release, and there are no procedures for participant voluntary discharges. The Navy is the only service that incorporates member-initiated discharge requests in its policy (1910-120.2.b.(2)). 

When a sailor’s attending military physician determines the disease exists and “obviates the member’s capability for prolonged naval duty,” he or she may request discharge. Only when all medical care options are exhausted will discharge petitions be considered. 

The medical paperwork must demonstrate that the ailment renders members unable to complete the military duty.

Members in all branches, however, have the option of pursuing this discharge. In many circumstances, starting with an impartial civilian examination to diagnose the illness is beneficial. This can be utilized with the military’s mental health doctors, whose evaluation and approval are required for discharge. 

These military medical guidelines are frequently followed by commands, especially when there are no severe performance issues in the individuals’ records. 

When commanders are stubborn, a statement from a solicitor or advocate, backed by the civilian examination and referencing the military medical suggestion, may persuade them to alter their minds. 

In the absence of such, an Article 138 complaint or Congressional investigation might be used to exert pressure on the command.

Involuntary discharge

Commands are increasingly employing adjustment disorder discharges as mandatory distances. As with personality disorder discharges, they are frequently handled sloppily by military medical workers and leadership, making it easy to fight the discharge

Performance criteria in adjustment disorder discharge 

The mere presence of an adjustment disorder, no matter how severe, is insufficient for discharge; there has to be evidence of (resultant) performance issues. 

According to AFI 36-3208, 5-11, a discharge recommendation “must be backed by papers verifying the presence of the ailment or disorder and…explain the detrimental impact on allocation or duty performance.” 

This explanation should include the consequences on the member’s performance, behavior (on and off duty), incapacity to adjust to the military environment, and any other factors that might restrict the member’s ability to complete his or her enlistment.” 

According to the Air Force Instruction, the psychiatric judgment of severity causing considerable hindrance with operation cannot be used in place of a (command) justification of the unfavorable effect on performance.

Command and control needs

Although it is uncommon, leadership in the Marine Corps and Air Force may disregard health services for adjustment disorder discharge (or other Conditions not Constituting a Physical Disability release). 

COs who believe members have the potential for continued service may submit a packet with the CO’s recommendation for retention in the Navy, where discharge may be based on operational unsuitability or assignment screening results (findings that a member is not globally deployable).

The package is evaluated by NAVPERSCOM and the Chief of Naval Operations, and it may be retained if it meets the Navy’s criteria (1910-120.3.f and g).

Procedure for Notification

Because the Notification Procedure is utilized to handle adjustment disorder discharges, members are not eligible to hear before administrative discharge tribunals unless they have served for six years. 

Members may instead submit written remarks (together with any supporting evidence) to challenge the discharge. Furthermore, they have the right to meet with army counsel, who will often, but not always, aid in the creation of a statement; and they have the right to examine all of the documentation that will be sent to the discharge agency in favor of the discharge.

Common wisdom holds that statements have limited significance when it comes to appealing administrative discharges, although that isn’t always the case. 

Lawyerly statements or briefs going to point to errors in the diagnosis or the command’s adherence to the regulations, backed up by documentary evidence such as non-combatant evaluations, statements by other participants familiar with the clients’ work productivity, evidence that the release may be retaliatory for blowing the whistle or sexual assault/sexual harassment complaints, and so on, can have a significant impact.

Characterization of discharge

The discharge type for Situations and Environments that do not constitute a Bodily Disability is “type justified by service record.” 

If a universal discharge is proposed, the Department of Defense mandates that the notification provide the individual with specific facts in the service record that necessitate the classification, unless the characterization is decided based on standardized quantitative scoring of performance appraisal. (8.c). 

This criterion is not included in all of the specific service regulations.

Because performance issues might lead to poorer performance reviews and other negative personnel entries, it is not always possible to trust that this departure will be totally honorable. 

Servicemembers and advocates might argue in the discharge declaration that any performance issues are the product of the mental disease and should not be included in categorization. This is confirmed by civilian mental assessments, which reveal that the performance issues were caused by the disease and were not purposeful.


Adjustment Disorder discharges are frequently abused by authorities as a form of revenge. However, if a service member is suffering from adjustment disorder, they can use this discharge affirmatively. Attorneys and counselors ought to be prepared to deal with both scenarios.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Can you get discharged for an adjustment disorder?

Can you get discharged for an adjustment disorder in the military?

The military does not usually discharge people with short-term and treatable concerns. Sometimes, people with an adjustment disorder are discharged when their condition is causing them serious concerns in their work and becomes an issue for people around them.

Can you be in the military with an adjustment disorder?

VA has a rating system for different disorders/disabilities and they also rate adjustment disorder with the use of the General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders under 38 CFR § 4.130 and the ratings are given on the basis of the level of the issue the condition poses in the person’s life like 0, 10, 30, 50, 100 percent rating. 

Can you get medically discharged for anxiety?

Yes, conditions like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia can be grounds for medical discharge or early retirement based on the level of severity and possibility of treatment. 

How do you get an honorable discharge?

In order to receive an honorable discharge, a service member needs to receive a good to excellent rating of their work. The people who fulfill the criteria for performance and conduct and also who have done the required tours of duty are eligible to receive honorable discharges.

Is adjustment disorder the same as PTSD?

Adjustment disorders and PTSD are two very different mental health issues as adjustment disorders are stress response syndrome whereas PTSD is a post-traumatic stress disorder that usually affects a person after they have been through a traumatic event and the symptoms of PTSD last way longer than the symptoms of adjustment disorder.

How long do adjustment disorders last?

Symptoms of adjustment disorders usually begin within the three-month duration of the stressful event that triggered the adjustment issues and they don’t last any longer than 6 months after the stressful event ends. 


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