Hi! I'm a former a conscientious objector who was AWOL from the US Army for a while. At that time, I utilized this forum as a guide to help me make my next move. Knowing almost nothing about the military, I accepted as true many statements uttered on this forum which turned out to be false. I'm writing to clarify a few common misconceptions to help "return the favor," as it were.
I was told by many in the military and many on this forum that an OTH discharge would "haunt me for life." This is simply not true. It will almost certainly not have any significant impact on your life whatsoever.
An OTH discharge will not show up on any "background check," ever, with the following possible exceptions: returning to military, federal employment that requires a security clearance, and police/firefighting background checks. You can work in all other government agencies that do not require a security clearance without your discharge becoming available to the employer.
-Returning to military should be self-evident. Obviously the military has access to its own records.
- fedl employment requiring background check (maybe). Please take note of the verbiage here; only federal employers hiring you for a security clearance-requiring position may be impacted by a OTH discharge (*note: I say "may" simply because I don't know. Perhaps you can get a sensitive clearance with no military records popping up. I have no direct experience with positions requiring a security clearance).
Since getting an OTH discharge, I have worked for the Transportation Security Agency as well as seasonal work with the US Census Bureau. In both positions I said I had no military background on the application. In both cases, they did not find out that this was untrue.
-police/firefighting. I do not know whether the police and fire departments have access to military records. Both cops and firefighting agencies require polygrath however, and I would imagine that they can find out these things. Alas, I would also have assumed the TSA would have found out, too. Your mileage may vary.
The background check utilized by the most serious civilian (and often govt) employers is called the NICS. This is the background check utilized by various state boards (nursing board, medical boards, et al). I am currently a nurse who has been board certified in three states, and I also ran an NCIS independently (you can do this at the local DMV). OTH discharges do not show up on NICS background checks. This is perhaps the most common of all misconceptions regarding background checks in the United States.
I Hope this helps. I'll be around to answer any questions that I am capable of. Best of luck.