Service members who are approaching their end-of-service date may hear mention of their discharge papers or DD Form 214. DD Form 214, DD-214, or simply DD214.
These papers are a report of separation or discharge certificate that is issued to service members upon their date of separation that also identifies the conditions of their discharge. They will be kept in their official military personnel file, at the National Personnel Record Center.
This applies to all branches of the US armed forces and acts as the official record of a service member’s retirement or discharge.
Because having DD214 is essential for veterans to verify their military service as well as various benefits ranging from employment and re-enlistment to seeking VA healthcare benefits, it is imperative that soldiers and veterans be aware of what it is, how to obtain it, and the proper way to fill it out.
What is Contained in DD214?
DD214 is a one-page document that contains information in relation to your service at the time of separation. This information is used to verify military service for any benefits, future employment, retirement, and membership in veteran organizations.
The information noted in DD214 includes:
- Date of entry into active duty
- Place of entry into active duty
- Date of release from active duty
- Place of release from active duty
- Home address at enlistment
- Home address after separation
- Military occupation (MOS, AFSC)
- Last duty assignment and rank
- Any military education
- Total amount of creditable service
- Any credit foreign service
- Any awards, medals, decorations, citations, and campaign awards received while enlisted
- Separation information (date and type of separation, character of service, reason for separation, separation and re-enlistment eligibility codes
Why is DD214 So Important?
Because DD214 is used as proof of military service and notes most of the critical details of a service member’s enlistment, it is one of the most important documents that a veteran be given that will have a lifelong impact.
Veterans will be required to provide a copy of their DD214 to obtain access to many benefits including but not limited to:
- Disability compensation
- GI Bill
- VA mortgages and home loans
- Access to employment with federal agencies
- Veteran-owned owned business benefits
For example, veterans who seek to return to military service after a period of separation or enlistment into reserves or the National Guard can carry over their rank, awards, and MOS training by providing their DD214.
There are various veteran discount programs such as VA home loans and veteran-owned business incentives. Furthermore, when veterans pass away, immediate family members will need a DD214 for any benefits relating to funerals or burials at a Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery as well as VA survivor and VA dependent benefits.
How Do I Obtain a DD214?
While this military service record is provided at the time of or shortly after separation, they are still able to be obtained manually. It is imperative that veterans maintain a copy for their own personal records and documents so that they have easy access to it should the need arise.
Thankfully, because it is such an important document, many parties will keep and maintain a copy for their own records and uses. That means that there are various avenues that you can take to obtain a certified copy of your DD214 including:
- Contacting your last unit of assignment
- Requesting a copy through the VA’s eBenefits website
- Requesting a copy via the Department of Defense’s milConnect website
- Contacting the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) and requesting a copy through their eVetRecs application, sending a letter to their St. Louis location, or via fax
Typically, you will be able to download a digital copy of your DD214 which also allows you to print a physical copy. You will receive these digital copies via email to download directly to your computer or mobile device. If a digital copy is not an option, it will be sent to you via mail.
Also, note that the NPRC and its web site house a host of military personnel records other than DD214 that you can request or access.
DD 214s are also accessible to people other than the veteran themselves. Immediate family members and next of kin such as a spouse, parent, child, or sibling can also utilize these methods to request a copy of a deceased veteran’s DD214. This will require the submission of documentation such as a death certificate or note from the funeral home that verifies the passing of the veteran.
In case of emergency, family members can also contact the National Cemetery Scheduling Office which will work to obtain the necessary records for emergency requests.
Keeping a copy and record of your DD214 is crucial because of the significant role it plays in post-service life for veterans. Moreover, maintaining your own personal copies of your DD214 helps guarantee access to it. Failure to maintain personal copies has proven to be a difficulty in the past such as when a devastating fire at the NPRC destroyed many veteran records.
How Do I Fill out a DD214?
Service members who have not yet been discharged will want to ensure that DD214 has been properly filled out the form due to the important information it contains.
- Boxes 1-6 contain personal information, such as name, social security number, birthdate, etc. Make sure these are correct and up to date.
- Box 7 will include information relating to service member’s entrance into the military.
- Box 8 will note service member’s duty assignment and station at time of separation.
- Box 9 contains information regarding where the service member is being transferred to (if any).
- Box 10 notes whether or not service member has SGLI coverage.
- Box 11-14 provides history of military service records. It will also annotate any specialties in the service member’s history. Addendums may be needed if the space provided does not suffice.
- Box 12 breaks down specific dates relating to duty.
- Box 13 and 14 expands above to include awards, education, and commendations.
- Box 16 will note days of accrued paid leave.
- Box 18 will include any additional remarks regarding service members discharge from active duty.
- Box 19 includes additional information, such as mailing address after separation, as well as next of kin.
- Boxes 21 and 22 include signatures of member and authorized officials.
Veterans and service members are highly encouraged to carefully check draft copies of these forms and their military records for accuracy to ensure that copies received after discharge contain the correct information and are free of errors.
While there are ways to make corrections to the form such as submission of a written request via DD Form 149, it is best to avoid the potential headache altogether by making sure the information on DD214 is correct the first time to ensure access to benefits.
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