What Actions Might Result in Military Insubordination?

On behalf of Law Offices of David P. Sheldon posted in Military Law on Friday, October 2, 2015.

In a recent post, we provided an overview of the courts-martial process. Today's entry takes a look at the behaviors that might constitute insubordination, and the potential punishment or consequences that might follow.

In general terms, a service member's disruption to the chain of command or authority in the military might result in a reprimand for insubordination. The Uniform Code of Military Justice in Articles 89-92 enumerates several definitions of different types of insubordination, but the general context is any behavior that disobeys, assaults or disrespects a superior officer. Notably, the officer does not necessarily have to be in the service member's direct chain of command to commit insubordination.

The punishment for insubordination might be severe, as in a dishonorable discharge. Other potential punishments include confinement and forfeiture of pay. Is ignorance of the other person's status as a superior officer a defense? Possibly. Other defenses might include self-defense or actions done in the discharge of another lawful duty.

Unfortunately, a military punishment might be felt long after the service member has left the military. In the case of a discharge that was not honorable, a service member might be disqualified from receiving veterans' benefits form the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Without such benefits, life after the military can be difficult. In fact, one study found that the risk of homelessness is seven times greater for veterans who did not have an honorable discharge.

Fortunately, a veteran can appeal his or her discharge. A successful appeal might result in a change of status, accompanied by access to VA benefits. According to one commentator, many veterans were unaware of their right to pursue an appeal. Fortunately, the number of appeals has increased in recent years, as more veterans become aware of their rights. Our law firm has also helped service members in this predicament.

Source: KPCC, "Minor infractions in uniform can keep vets on the street and away from VA," John Ismay, Sept. 29, 2015