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Understanding Form DD-214 And Your Benefits

Form DD-214 is a United States Department of Defense document given to military service members as they exit the military. It contains all the essential details of their service and is frequently used by government and veteran services as proof of service.

The DD-214 is essential for verifying veterans’ service and determining eligibility for benefits such as VA disability compensation, medical treatment, and retirement services. Veterans also use the DD-214 to verify service and skills for future employment or reenlisting in the military.

Also, family members of deceased veterans need the DD-214 to apply for funeral or survivor benefits.

It’s vital to 1) verify that the DD-214 is correct and 2) safeguard it after you receive it. And because veterans benefits fraud is so high, some thieves might steal the document to access your social security number or other personal information. If the DD-214 form is lost, request another copy or download it online.

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What Is Form DD-214?

Form DD-214, often referred to as DD-214, is a discharge document that has been in use since 1950. It is a one-page document that contains all the necessary details of a veteran’s service record. The form includes dates of service, military occupational specialties (MOSs) held, awards, education, and overseas service. It’s usually given to a veteran at or shortly after discharge from the military.

It used to be common for veterans to keep a certified copy of their DD-214 at their County Clerk’s Office, so it could be easily accessed if the veteran’s copy is lost. Some veterans are reluctant to do this due to privacy concerns (the DD-214 becomes public records when filed with the County Clerk). However, many states have implemented strict privacy protocols to protect personal information. Check with your local clerk’s office to see if filing a copy of your DD-214 is an option you want to pursue.

Form DD-214 serves as proof of service for veterans’ disability benefits, membership in veterans’ organizations, and verification of skills for employment. If the DD-214 is lost, a veteran can request a replacement copy through the National Archives or possibly obtain a copy online through Veterans Affairs or the United States Department of Defense.

Relatives who need to get a copy of a veteran’s DD-214 for death benefits or burial can do so through the National Archives. Only next of kin relatives (spouse, child, parent, or sibling) can request a copy of a deceased veteran’s DD-214.

How to Get DD-Form 214

There are several ways to request a copy of your DD-214. The easiest way is through your unit of assignment or higher headquarters that is processing your military discharge. The unit should have the DD-214 in your military service record.

You may not get your Member 4 copy while out-processing due to time factors such as terminal leave time. But you should receive it shortly after discharge through the mail or electronically.

To request a copy of your DD-214 years after your discharge, check with your last command for a copy. If they cannot provide a copy or you may be able to get a digital copy of their DD-214 through the VA’s eBenefits website or the Department of Defense’s milConnect website.

Another source for locating your DD-214 is the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) of the National Archives. The best way to submit a request is online through their eVetRecs application. If an electronic copy of your DD-214 exists, you will receive access to download it directly, provided you included your email address in your request. Otherwise, you will receive a copy through the mail. You can check on the status of your request by following up through their portal.

(You can also request a copy of your medical records if you need other documents besides the DD-214.)

Check the NPRC website for any news or announcements about their current processing procedures. Complete and sign a Standard Form 180 and fax it to (314) 801-0764 if you have an emergency request.

Once completed, the form can be faxed or mailed to the National Personnel Records Center.

The National Personnel Records Center

National Personnel Records Center

1 Archives Drive

St. Louis, Missouri 63138

When completing the SF 180, include as much information as possible and send it with copies of any service documents you may have. Make sure that you follow the instructions when completing an SF 180. The last page of the document has a table that will help you determine the location of the record you wish to retrieve.

(Alternatively, you can submit a letter. The letter should include all the information you would have included on the SF 180.)

What Do I Include on an SF 180?

You must provide the following information:

  • The veteran’s full name as used in service.
  • Service number and/or Social Security Number.
  • Branch of Service.
  • Dates of Service.
  • Date and place of birth if known. This might be useful if the Service Number is unknown.
  • If the 1973 Fire at the National Personnel Record Center might have affected the military records, you may need the veteran’s place of discharge, their last assigned unit, and the place of entry into service.
  • In the case of a deceased veteran, the request should include proof of death. This can be in the form of a death certificate, a letter from a funeral home, or a published obituary.

It may be helpful to include the reason for your request and any other specific information, documents, or service records you want from your Official Military Personnel File (OMPF). The documents requesting a DD-214 should be signed and dated by the veteran or their next of kin.

Information Included on Form DD-214

Many details are included on the DD-214, from the service member’s entry into service through their final day in the military. Some of the most important details are highlighted below.

1. Date and Place of Entry into Active Duty

The date you officially entered active service is crucial to determining the total length of military service. This date will be on the form, along with the place, whether that’s a military installation or Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS).

2. Home Address When at Entry into Active Duty

Another place noted on your DD-214 is your home address when you entered the military. Why is this important? It may be used to calculate moving costs if the military is paying to relocate you back to your original home address.

3. Military Job Specialty

The DD-214 has a section that lists your military job specialty, also known as your military occupational specialty (MOS). Each MOS you were qualified for and how much time you spent in that MOS is listed. Veterans use the DD-214 to qualify as experience as they search for civilian employment or education. If the veteran decides to reenlist in the future, the DD-214 can assign them in the same MOS.

4. Military Education

This section lists course titles, course length, and course completion dates.

5. Decorations, Medals, Badges, and Campaign Awards

Be sure this section is accurate and complete. It’s much easier to add missing awards during discharge while personnel records are close at hand.

6. Citations

You can find them in Block 13, along with the items mentioned above.

7. Last Assignment and Rank

The service member’s last assignment and rank are on the DD-214. Having the last assignment information helps locate records in the future is necessary. Listing the correct rank is crucial for pay or reenlistment purposes.

8. Overseas Service Description

Overseas service information, meaning any time you served outside the United States, is specified on the DD-214.

9. Combat Service Description

Location, dates, and other combat service information can be found in the Remarks Section of the DD-214. This information is helpful to veterans who are applying for disability compensation benefits.

10. Details of Separation

Specific details of your separation can be found on your DD-214. Details such as the type of separation (i.e., retirement, medical, misconduct, ETS) and a brief narrative are at the bottom of the form. Also included are codes used by the military to classify separation type and the ability to reenter service.

11. Condition of Discharge

DD-214s verify the condition of discharge, also known as the characterization of service. There are six different types of discharge conditions, each of which affects your ability to receive certain veterans’ benefits.

FAQs About Form DD-214

What if my DD-214 is wrong?

You can ask for a correction to your DD-214 if there is an administrative error. You’ll send a written request, supporting documentation for the change, and a copy of the DD-214. You’ll get a DD-215 correction document if your request is approved. Each branch has an office that controls military personnel records and handles DD-214 correction requests.

Is DD-214 the Same as Discharge Papers?

Not always. The DD-214 serves as proof of military service and in some cases serves as discharge papers. However, different divisions have additional forms that could serve as Discharge Papers.

Reservists, for example, receive a DD Form 256 when they separate from the military. Former National Guard or Air National Guard members could have NGB Form 22 or NGB Form 22-a along with other forms that serve as proof of service, like discharge papers issued by their state.

Does a DD-214 make you a veteran?

Having a DD-214 means you have served in the Armed Forces on active duty. Reservists, service members in the Reserves or National Guard, do not receive a DD-214 unless called to active duty. Reservists are issued a DD-214 each time they serve on active duty. Reservists have a separate form they use when they leave service completely. Factors such as your characterization of service can affect your eligibility for various veteran benefits.

Who Can Receive A DD-214?

A DD-214 is issued as proof of service. It will be issued if someone has completed active duty or attended at least active duty training of 90 uninterrupted days or shorter periods when required by the Secretary concerned. Personnel may receive a DD-214 upon separation due to a physical disability, regardless of how long they served on active duty. If a Service member continues active duty in a different manner than they previously served, they may also receive a DD-214.

To receive a DD-214, a veteran needs to be entirely separated from their service. Persons in the active or inactive Reserves, the National Guard, who have not completed their service, or who have not been formally discharged will not have a DD-214.

When discharged from the military, veterans should receive a copy of the short and long forms. Copies of these documents are also sent to certain state and federal agencies like the US Department of Veteran Affairs.

If the next of kin requests a DD-214 on behalf of a deceased veteran, they must provide proof of the veteran’s death. This could include a death certificate, a letter from the funeral home, or a published obituary.

A third party, like a lawyer, doctor, or historian, may request information from individual military records if they have permission from the veteran’s or the veteran’s next of kin. This permission should be provided in writing, signed, and dated.

In the case of an Authorized Third Party Request, the requester should state their relation to the veteran and the reason for the request. The authorization must also state the information the veteran (or their next of kin) allows the third party to access.

Military personnel records are made available to the public 62 years after the person leaves the military. Anyone can order a veteran’s military records after this time has passed. In these cases, a copying fee will apply.

How do I upgrade my DD-214 discharge?

The six types of characterizations of service are: 

  • Honorable
  • General (under honorable conditions)
  • Other than honorable
  • Bad conduct
  • Dishonorable
  • Entry-level

Most benefit programs require anything other than dishonorable service, but you should check specific eligibility requirements before applying.

When service members fail to complete their first 180 days of service, they are given an entry-level discharge and do not have veteran status.

A veteran can request an upgrade up to 15 years after discharge. The request will be made in writing and include any substantiating evidence. Each military branch has its own review board. Characterization upgrades aren’t granted for hardship, a recent change in character, or to provide benefits eligibility. The veteran must explain why the discharge should not have been initially classified as it was.

If the main reason for requesting an upgrade is to use VA benefits, another option is the Character of Discharge review process offered by the VA. It does not change your character of service on your DD-214 but allows you to use VA benefits.

Correcting Information on Form DD-214

The information on a DD-214 may not always be correct. For instance, the spelling of names or numbers may be wrong. In this case, you can request corrections to the document, and the government will issue a corrected form. This form is called the DD215.

The DD215 is the same as the DD-214 except for the corrections. Therefore, a DD215 can be used the same way as the DD-214.

Veterans with a dishonorable discharge status on their DD-214 could request an appeal. An appeal for a change in a dishonorable discharge status is seldom granted. However, in the past, some veterans received this status because of homosexuality. In these cases, appealing a dishonorable discharge status today will likely be successful.

Suppose a veteran who received a dishonorable discharge has changed significantly since their discharge status. In that case, they can request a Character of Service Determination. A Character of Service Determination could influence the military discharge status. Still, it may not necessarily grant the veteran access to benefits they had become ineligible for due to dishonorable discharge status.

Requesting A Reissuance of DD Forms 214 And 215.

Generally, the DD-214 will not be reissued except for special circumstances. However, a DD-214 could be reissued if directed by an appropriate appellate authority, Executive Order, or the Secretary concerned.

It may also be reissued if the service concerned established that the original DD-214 cannot be properly corrected by issuing a DD215. Similarly, a DD-214 might be reissued if it might require more than one DD215 to be issued to make corrections to the original DD-214.

Lastly, a DD-214 may be reissued if two DD
15s have been issued and more corrections need to be made.

Why Is a DD-214 Important?

A DD-214 is important because it provides all the most critical details of a veteran’s military service in one document. It is most often used to verify eligibility for veterans’ benefits. Disability compensation, VA home loans, GI Bill, and other VA benefits require a DD-214 as proof of service. 

It can also be used as a certifying document when reenlisting into active duty or with the Reserves or National Guard. Without it, a service member could be denied from carrying over rank, awards, or MOSs they acquired during previous service periods.

A DD-214 is also used as proof of service when seeking employment with federal agencies and some civilian occupations. If you start your own business, you’ll need a DD-214 to certify a veteran-owned business. The DD-214 also serves as an ID for veteran discount programs.

When a veteran dies, immediate family members will need the DD-214 for funeral and burial benefits. VA survivor and dependent benefits may also be available to the deceased veteran’s family. To apply, you’ll need the DD-214 Form along with a marriage and birth certificate.

Understanding the Importance of Form DD-214

The DD-214 is vital to veterans in many ways. Whether applying for a home loan, GI Bill benefits, or disability compensation, the DD-214 is required in the VA’s application process.

As a proof of service document, the DD-214 verifies service for veteran discounts, membership in veteran organizations, or other special veteran programs. For business owners, the DD-214 is needed for Veteran Owned Business status.

The DD-214 is essential for family members when applying for benefits after a veteran has passed away. These benefits could be related to funeral and burial costs or survivor benefits for eligible family members.

Veterans should make sure they carefully check draft copies of DD-214 for accuracy as they out-process and take measures to safeguard final copies when they are received after discharge. Although there are ways to correct them later or request a copy after service, it’s much easier to take care of it immediately. A missing or incorrect DD 214 can delay valuable benefits.

How to Get a DD-214 for a Deceased Relative

A DD-214 form is a certificate of release or discharge from active military duty. It is often called the Report of Separation, and you’ll need one to access your services and benefits. A DD-214 form will have personnel records, including the date and place of active duty, military education, home address at the time of entry and departure, last duty assignment and rank, decorations, medals, badges, full service, and type of separation (ex: honorable). 

Who Can Make a Request?

Both veterans and next of kin of the deceased service member have the right to obtain a DD-214 form. The next of kin will include an un-remarried widow or widower, son, father, daughter, mother, brother, or sister. If a next of kin requests military record access, they must have proof of death. This can be a death certificate, a letter from a funeral home, or a published obituary. 

How to Request a Copy

You can request military personnel records online, and you can also request a hard copy. To request a copy, you’ll need to provide as much information as possible to request a copy. You will need to provide the following:

  • Complete name of the veteran
  • Veterans service number and/or social security number
  • Branch service
  • Dates of service
  • Date and place of birth

Third-party requesters, such as doctors or lawyers, may submit requests for information from an individual military service record with the eligible veteran’s or next of kin’s signed and dated authorization. They must state their relationship to the individual and the purpose of the request. Only very limited information can be released to the public without authorization from the eligible veteran or next of kin.

Once you have requested a document, you will receive an email confirming your request. You will receive another email when the documents are available to view and download if you request them online.

Can I Obtain a DD-214 Belonging to a Deceased Relative?

If you are considered next of kin, you can obtain military discharge papers belonging to a deceased relative. To obtain one, you must 1) provide proof of death, such as a death certificate, and 2) be considered next of kin. The public can request discharge papers if the veteran has been discharged for over 62 years

Why Would I Need a Relative’s DD-214 Form?

This form has the information needed to verify military service. Without it, you will not be able to receive benefits, retirement, services, and membership in veteran organizations. 

How Long Does it Take to Receive the DD-214 Form?

The time it takes depends on how you request the forms. If a veteran has been recently discharged, they may be able to access these military records online immediately. If not, you may be required to request the documents online or through the mail to the national personnel records center. This could include an online application, printing documentation, signing it, and mailing or faxing it to an office. Handwritten requests are accepted as well.

Unfortunately, it’s going to be a waiting game. It might take months to receive the documentation. In fact, do not follow up with your request until three months have passed; since it is highly unlikely you will receive the documentation you requested within three months. 

What Veteran Survivor Benefits Could I Have Access To?

You may be eligible for survivor benefits if your loved one is a deceased veteran. These are the benefits the veteran would have received through Veterans Affairs. These benefits may be continued to their surviving next of kin and dependents. These benefits include healthcare, education and training, home loan programs, financial counseling services, life insurance options, claims, assistance, burial and memorial benefits, pension, and compensation for surviving spouses and dependents.

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