GI Rights Hotline

Military Discharges and Military Counseling

Call 1-877-447-4487

Dependency or Hardship Discharge

Fact Sheet

After you read this fact sheet, please call the Hotline (877-447-4487) to talk over your options with a counselor.

Dependency or Hardship Discharge

Some men and women in the military have family problems which can be resolved only by their discharge from the military. You can apply for a discharge based on the “genuine dependency or undue hardship” being a member of the military is causing if all of the following conditions are met:

  • The hardship is severe and not temporary.
  • It has developed or gotten worse since your entry into the military.
  • You have made every reasonable effort to improve the situation before applying for a hardship discharge.
  • Separation from the military is the only solution to the problem.

Consider applying for a hardship or dependency discharge if you have a sick parent, spouse or child who needs your care, or a family member is unable to make ends meet without your presence and help. Remember that the demands of the situation should be greater than the were at the time of the last enlistment/reenlistment.

Applying for a hardship or dependency separation can result in either discharge or transfer to the inactive (non-drilling) reserves. Characterization of service will normally be Honorable or, when the service record has issues, General (under Honorable Conditions). Servicemembers may also apply to be reassigned closer to home for hardships of shorter length. This is called a compassionate reassignment. 

Hardship and dependency conditions are based on the financial, emotional, and physical needs of a your immediate family. However, families of servicemembers often experience some financial hardship or psychological strain because of the disruptions of family life associated with normal military duty. To be granted discharge, you must be experiencing conditions that are worse than what is normal for military service. In the words of the military, grounds for hardship or dependency discharge do “not necessarily exist solely because of altered present or expected income, family separation, or other inconveniences normally incident to Military Service.” For example, you are not eligible for a discharge simply because you could be making more money as a civilian.

Some Facts About Applying for a Dependency or Hardship Discharge

Hardship vs Dependency. Terminology can get confusing because "hardship" and "dependency" discharges are often both loosely labeled  "hardship." Specifically, a hardship discharge is when the financial needs of family member(s) require more than the military member can provide while remaining in the military. Dependency discharges are when the obligation of being a caretaker or caregiver to a family member are incompatible with the obligations of military service. Criteria for the two discharges are specific and a person can consult with a GI Rights Counselor to explore whether their situation falls under hardship/dependency categories. 

Because the military has strict standards for hardship and dependency discharges, the chances of getting a discharge are greatly increased if the claim is carefully thought out and thoroughly documented.  GI Rights Counselors can help applicants decide what kinds of documentation are helpful.

A discharge application cannot be denied because of debt to the military, or government, or because the applicants services are needed by the military.

Persons applying for a either category must show that discharge will remedy the situation.   Applications based on financial considerations,  must confirm how getting out will enable the person to earn more money, or save enough money to meet the need.Applications for dependency discharge must show how the person's presence will improve the situation or keep it from getting worse.

In either case it must also be shown that there is no other family member who can provide sufficient help to remedy the need and that the contributions of other family members doing all they can are still not enough without the military member being released from service. 

Request for Humanitarian Reassignment

If the hardship or dependency is of short duration, the member can apply for “humanitarian reassignment” (or “compassionate reassignment” in the Army) to a duty station closer to home. The military may also provide for a delay of a scheduled reassignment for 90 days.


Documentation is likely to make or break a case. The request for discharge will be reviewed by military officials who don’t know your family’s situation. The decision of whether to grant discharge will be based on the information supplied by you; because of this, the application must be as clear, factual, and complete as possible. If both dependency and hardship conditions exist, make clear the severity of both the hardship and dependency conditions. You can ask the Red Cross office for your base to help gather documentation for your application.

The regulations of each Service specific information on the documentation they require. Those regulations also require the command to inform you of the correct procedures to follow and often ask that the command assist you in gathering and preparing documentation. The documentation generally required by all the Services is outlined below.

The most important documentation is your statement, which should include:

  • A complete and specific description of the hardship or dependency using names, dates, and places. Include a history of the problem, if any.
  • A specific description of what action has been taken to solve the problem.
  • A description of specifically how you expect to improve or resolve the hardship or dependency if request for separation is approved.

You must also provide the:

  • Names, addresses, and ages of you and your family.
  • Names, addresses, and ages of other immediate family members.
  • Dates of any previous requests for emergency leave, humanitarian reassignment, or hardship discharge.

Supporting Statements

A statement by, or on behalf of, the person(s) experiencing hardship or dependency (your family) must be submitted for proof of the claim. Family members should write letters that explain the situation, describe in detail why they can not give financial or personal help (including, where appropriate, statements of income and expenses), or why the help that family members do provide is not enough. (Usually it is not enough for you to state that relatives cannot or will not help with the situation. You must ask relatives to provide their own statements for your application.) Also provide statements from at least two people who know of the situation, but are not members of the family (such as doctors, employers, neighbors, etc.).

A claim of financial hardship must be supported by a carefully prepared and itemized budget. You will be expected to visit a base financial counseling service, where available. These service centers assist with budgeting and debt relief and can help draft an itemized budget. If possible, provide a notarized letter from a prospective employer with a job offer after discharge, including the salary, type of work, and hours of work per week.

If there is an illness or disability in the family, include a statement from all involved physicians or psychologists giving the history (including the date when the illness became serious or acute), diagnosis, and, most importantly, the prognosis of the illness.

If dependency is the result of a death in your family, provide a copy of the death certificate or other valid proof of death. Death certificates are usually kept in the city hall of the town where the person died or at the state capital. If you have trouble getting a copy, ask a doctor or minister to write a statement saying when the person died.

If your family works a farm and you are needed there, a statement from the County Farm Agent or Farm Bureau can be submitted. It should report the size of the farm, the area under cultivation, numbers of livestock, the availability of other farm labor in the area, and any other relevant information.

People asked to make statements will write most effectively if you explain the extent of the problem and the standards the military sets for discharge (see Tips for Statement Writers below). All letters and documentation should be sent to you, not directly to the commander. After gathering the documentation, check that the information is complete, accurate, and consistent. Call us at the GI Rights Hotline for help.

Tips for Statement Writers

The military provides for the discharge of people who are needed at home because someone in their immediate family becomes severely dependent on the servicemember. In order to qualify for discharge on the basis of hardship or dependency, the servicemember must document for military authorities that remaining in the military places this hardship on the dependent.

The person submitting the application for discharge on the basis of dependency or hardship must submit letters which prove the claim. These letters can come from persons who know the situation well, such as friends, neighbors, clergy, social workers, and doctors. These letters greatly improve the likelihood of discharge.

The servicemember who has requested that you write a letter of support must show the following:

  • That his or her presence and/or increased financial support is essential to prevent the dependent from suffering severe hardship, and that there is no one else both able and willing to take the servicemember’s place.
  • That the hardship condition developed after the member entered the military.
  • That the condition is not temporary in nature.
  • That every other means of attempting to solve the problem has been tried and that discharge from the military is now the only remaining solution which offers the possibility of greatly reducing or eliminating the problem.

Your statement should describe how you are familiar with the situation. Please describe:

  • Your relationship to the family (friend, employer, grocer, minister, doctor, teacher, etc.).
  • How long you have known the family and the person filing the claim.
  • How much contact you have with them (note frequency of visits, correspondence, etc.).

Please also describe the circumstances of the hardship or dependency. Please use specific examples to support your statements. Include information such as:

  • How long the problem has existed.
  • When it began, or got worse, after the person entered the military.
  • What services and support are needed and how the servicemember could provide these.
  • Why no one else in the family can provide the support in his or her place.
  • What other solutions have been tried.

Explain the consequences of the member’s discharge, including:

  • Why and how the discharge would help.
  • What, in your opinion, will happen to the dependent if the discharge is denied.

Make the letter concise usually no longer than two pages. If possible, it should be typed, and where applicable, on letterhead indicating your title and organizational affiliation. If it is convenient, it helps to have the letter notarized.

Address the letter to “Commanding Officer of [applicant’s name]” but send it to the applicant to include in the request for discharge. Please keep a copy for your records.