Can You Rejoin the Military After Getting Kicked Out?

by | Army | 1 comment

Wondering if you can rejoin the military after getting kicked out? You’re not alone. Many former service members find themselves contemplating a return to duty after being discharged for various reasons. Whether it was due to a minor infraction or a more serious offense, the path back to military service isn’t always straightforward.

Reenlistment often depends on the type of discharge you received. While some discharges may permanently bar you from rejoining, others might offer a glimmer of hope. Understanding the nuances of military regulations and your specific situation is crucial. Dive into this article to explore your options and navigate the complex process of rejoining the military after a discharge.

Understanding Military Discharges

Types of Military Discharges

Military discharges fall into several categories, each affecting your reenlistment eligibility differently. The main types include:

  • Honorable Discharge: You’re eligible for most veterans’ benefits and typically can reenlist without significant problems.
  • General Discharge (Under Honorable Conditions): You maintain access to some veterans’ benefits, but reenlistment can require a waiver or review.
  • Other Than Honorable (OTH) Discharge: This can limit your benefits and significantly hinder or outright bar reentry.
  • Bad Conduct Discharge (BCD): Resulting from a court-martial, this type greatly restricts veterans’ benefits and virtually eliminates the chance of reenlistment.
  • Dishonorable Discharge: Issued after serious offenses, this type permanently bars reentry and revokes most, if not all, military benefits.
  • Entry-Level Separation (ELS): Given within the first 180 days of service, it doesn’t significantly impact eligibility for reenlistment though a review may be necessary.

Impact of Discharge Type on Reenlistment

The type of discharge directly impacts your ability to reenlist. Honorable discharges typically present no barriers, while general discharges often require waivers. If given an Other Than Honorable discharge, you might face substantial obstacles and need extensive documentation for reconsideration. For Bad Conduct or Dishonorable discharges, reenlistment is usually not an option.

Conditional factors like your service record, reason for discharge, and any rehabilitation efforts can influence your chances. Certain branches may have more lenient or stricter policies regarding reenlistment criteria based on discharge type.

Criteria for Rejoining the Military

Reenlistment Eligibility Codes

Understanding Reenlistment Eligibility (RE) codes is essential when considering rejoining the military. These codes classify your discharge status and dictate reenlistment eligibility. Key codes include:

  1. RE-1: Indicates eligibility for reenlistment without restrictions.
  2. RE-2: May suggest reenlistment restrictions due to specific conditions, requiring further assessment.
  3. RE-3: Denotes eligibility for reenlistment with a waiver, typically due to minor infractions or medical issues.
  4. RE-4: Indicates ineligibility for reenlistment, often due to serious misconduct or disqualifying conditions.

These codes, assigned during discharge, significantly impact your chances of rejoining the military.

Waivers and Exceptions

You can pursue waivers if an RE code suggests ineligibility or restrictions. Waivers allow for reconsideration of your rejoining request based on specific circumstances. Important waiver types include:

  • Conduct Waivers: For those with discharges due to misconduct, provided substantial evidence of rehabilitation.
  • Medical Waivers: Required if medical issues were a discharge factor, contingent on current health status.
  • Administrative Waivers: Applicable when specific administrative reasons hinder reenlistment, depending on departmental review.

Obtaining a waiver involves thorough documentation and supporting evidence. Each branch of the military may have distinct criteria and guidelines, necessitating precise adherence to their requirements.

Understanding these criteria and processes is crucial to increasing the possibility of rejoining the military after a discharge.

Process of Rejoining the Military

Steps to Apply for Reenlistment

To rejoin the military after getting kicked out, follow these steps:

  1. Review Discharge Status: Determine your discharge status. This involves checking your DD Form 214 and understanding the type and characterization of your discharge.
  2. Identify Reenlistment Eligibility (RE) Code: Each discharge comes with an RE code. Check your RE code to see if it’s RE-1, RE-2, RE-3, or RE-4. RE-1 usually allows reenlistment without issue, whereas RE-3 might need a waiver, and RE-4 often disqualifies you.
  3. Consult a Recruiter: Speak with a military recruiter for the branch you’re interested in. They provide specific advice and help determine if you qualify for reenlistment.
  4. Gather Documentation: Prepare necessary documents like your discharge papers, proof of education, medical records, and any waiver applications. Thorough documentation can support your case.
  5. Apply for Waivers: If your RE code needs a waiver, submit the appropriate form. Types include Conduct, Medical, and Administrative Waivers. Each branch has specific criteria for approval.
  6. Complete Application: Submit your reenlistment application with all required documents to the recruiting office for review. Ensure accuracy to avoid delays.
  7. Attend Interviews: Be ready for interviews or evaluations as part of the process. These could include a background check, security clearance check, and personal interview.

Challenges and Considerations

Reenlisting faces several challenges and considerations:

  • Discharge Characterization: A Dishonorable or Bad Conduct discharge significantly lowers chances of reenlistment. However, an Other Than Honorable discharge might get reconsidered with effort.
  • RE Code and Waivers: RE-4 codes usually prevent reenlistment. RE-3 needs extensive documentation and waivers, which might not get approved easily.
  • Branch-Specific Policies: Each branch has unique policies. For instance, the Army’s acceptance criteria differ from the Navy’s. Research and understand the specific requirements of the chosen branch.
  • Moral and Ethical Standards: Past misconduct poses a considerable obstacle. Demonstrating that you’ve taken corrective measures and changed behavior is vital. This includes involvement in community service or employment verification.
  • Medical History: Medical fitness is crucial. Previous injuries or medical conditions could necessitate a Medical Waiver, which demands thorough examination and documentation.
  • Time Frame: The process can be lengthy. Preparing for waiting periods and potential setbacks is essential.

Combining these steps and considerations increases your chances of reenlistment. Each factor requires careful attention and thorough documentation to navigate the process effectively.

Personal Stories and Case Studies

Success Stories of Rejoining

Some service members, after being discharged, have successfully reenlisted. For example, an individual with an honorable discharge but a re-entry code of 3A managed to rejoin by addressing their previous issues and securing a waiver. Commitment and proper preparation helped them overcome the initial setbacks.

Another success story involves a veteran discharged for minor misconduct. This individual completed counseling and rehabilitation programs, demonstrating personal growth and reliability. Their perseverance, coupled with strong recommendations, led to their acceptance back into the military.

Examples of Denied Reenlistment

Not all attempts to reenlist end successfully. A former service member with a dishonorable discharge and a re-entry code of 4 faced a denial. Despite completing an appeal, the severity of their discharge prevented reconsideration.

In another case, a veteran discharged for medical reasons tried to reenlist. Even after presenting updated medical records and undergoing evaluations, the military deemed their condition too high-risk for return to service.

Evaluating these personal stories shows the varied outcomes of trying to reenlist. Success hinges on discharge type, RE codes, and personal efforts to address past issues. Understanding these elements is vital when considering reenlistment after discharge.


Rejoining the military after being kicked out is undoubtedly challenging but not impossible. Your discharge type and RE code play critical roles in determining your eligibility. Personal stories of both successful and denied reenlistment attempts highlight the importance of addressing past issues and securing necessary waivers. By understanding the intricacies of discharge characterizations and branch-specific policies, you can better navigate the reenlistment process. If you’re determined to serve again, it’s essential to be proactive, seek guidance, and demonstrate your commitment to overcoming past obstacles.



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