A DD Form 214 is a discharge record that contains a summary of active military personnel service. In addition, it provides information on military personnel that can be used for administrative purposes and to determine whether an individual is eligible for enlistment or reenlistment.

The form also lists all formal in-service training courses that the veteran has successfully completed., which helps veterans receive job counseling and find a job once discharged. However, the DD 214 form will not list training courses related to combat skills.

It also provides service members with a summary of the person's active service with the Armed Forces as it was at the time the person was transferred, released, or discharged or when they changed status or component while on active duty.

DD Form 214 provides governmental agencies with the information required in the administration of Federal and State laws that apply to personnel who have been transferred to a Reserve component while on active duty, discharged, or otherwise released.

According to the United States Department of Defense, the DD Form 214 is the 'authoritative source of information required for the administration of State and Federal laws applicable to personnel who have been discharged, released, or transferred to a Reserve component while on active duty.'

This form can be used by veterans or their next-of-kin to access benefits, including funeral and burial benefits, VA benefits, or housing benefits, among others. It could also assist in having a loved one buried in a national cemetery. The DD Form 214 essentially states that a veteran has served in the military, has been discharged from service, and the manner in which the discharge occurred.

The manner of discharge noted on a veteran's military discharge papers is crucial as it could affect the benefits a veteran may be eligible for.

When a veteran is discharged, they will receive a copy of their DD214. The office from which they are discharged will provide this document personally or by mail.

This document, like birth certificates and Social Security cards, should be kept safe. The best place to keep your original DD214 is in a fireproof safe or a secure filing cabinet. If your or a loved one's DD214 gets misplaced, damaged, or destroyed, a copy can be requested from the National Personnel Records Center.

What Is the DD 214 Form?

The DD214 form is a report of separation form. It serves as a Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty. This form is issued when a service member has performed active duty or has attended at least 90 consecutive days of active duty training.

There are two types of DD214s. The short form is also called the deleted Form of Separation or the edited Form of Separation. The Long form is also called the undeleted Form of Separation.

The long form contains information about the veteran's discharge. It may include information about the situation around the discharge. It may also have a grade or rating that assesses the discharge positively or negatively.

The long form is usually requested by government agencies, benefits organizations, and employers working with veterans. It may also be needed when applying for funeral benefits for a deceased veteran.

Here is more on what DD214 is (guide).

Why Do I Need a Copy of The DD214?

All military personnel is issued a DD214 when there is a change in their service status. In most cases, they receive a hard copy either in person or through the mail.

These documents should be kept in a safe place. Even so, something could happen that results in the loss or damage of your DD214. If this happens, you will need to apply for a copy of your DD214. Similarly, family members or next-of-kin of deceased veterans may need to locate a copy of the deceased person's DD214 to access certain benefits like funeral or burial benefits.

In these cases, you will need to request a copy of your DD214 from the National Personnel Records Center.

You will likely need to provide a copy of your DD214 when you want to do certain things based on your military history. You may need it when seeking employment. For example, some institutions may be unable to employ someone who was dishonorably discharged, while others could have active programs supporting and hiring veterans.

You will require your DD214 if you want to reenlist in the military or seek benefits from the Department of Veteran Affairs. These benefits may include assistance in purchasing a new home or cover for medical care.

A DD214 is required to access funeral, burial, or cremation benefits and reimbursement programs for deceased veterans.

What Information Is Included in The DD214?

The DD214 contains information that verifies someone's military service. This can be used to access benefits, for retirement or employment purposes, or to gain access to veterans' organizations.

A veteran's condition of discharge is noted on their DD214 form. This states whether a veteran's discharge was honorable, general (under honorable conditions), under other than honorable conditions, dishonorable, due to bad conduct, or uncharacterized. The types of military discharge affect the benefits a veteran may receive after being discharged.

Numerous similar forms existed before January 1, 1950. This version replaces these forms:

· WD AGO 53.

· WD AGO 55.

· WD AGO 53-55.

· NAVPERS 553.


· NAVCG 553.

The DD214 form might contain the following:

· The date and location of entry into active duty.

· Your home address at the time of entry.

· The date and place of release from active duty.

· Your home address after separation.

· Your last duty assignment and rank.

· Your military job specialty.

· Your military education.

· Any decorations, medals, badges, citations, and campaign awards you received while serving.

· Total creditable service.

· Foreign service credited.

· Separation information including:

o Date and type of separation.

o Character of service.

o Authority and reason for separation.

o Separation and reenlistment eligibility codes.

Is DD214 The Same as Discharge Papers?

The DD Form 214 serves as proof of military service. It could also serve as discharge papers in some cases. 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 members of the National Guard or Air National Guard 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.

Who Can Receive A DD214?

A DD214 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 Form 214 upon separation due to a physical disability, regardless of how long they served on active duty. Suppose a Service member continues active duty in a different manner in which they previously served. In that case, they may also receive a DD214.

In order to receive a DD214, a veteran need to be entirely separated from their service. Persons who are 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 DD214.

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

In the event of a deceased veteran, the person's next-of-kin has access rights to the deceased's DD214. For these purposes, persons considered to be a deceased veteran's next-of-kin include a widow or widower who has not remarried, a son, daughter, father, mother, or sibling of the deceased veteran.

If the next-of-kin requests a DD214 on behalf of a deceased veteran, they will need to provide proof of the veteran's death. This could include a death certificate, a letter from the funeral home, or a published obituary. Find out more about how to get a DD214 for a deceased relative. 

A third party, like a lawyer, doctor, or historian, may request information from individual military records if they have the veteran's or the veteran's next-of-kin's permission. 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 Get a Copy of My DD214?

You can either request a digital form (from the National archives website at vetrecs.archives.gov) or a hard copy. The best way to request a DD214 is by completing an SF 180 by using online services, fax, or mail. The SF 180 form is not mandatory; however, it is recommended since it captures all the information necessary to locate your record.

An SF 180 Form can be completed to obtain a hard copy of a veteran's DD214. Once completed, the form can be faxed or mailed to the National Personnel Records Center.

The National Personnel Records Center's address is:

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.

You will need to provide at least the following information:

· The full name of the veteran 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.

· Suppose the 1973 Fire at the National Personnel Record Center might have affected the military records. In that case, 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 DD214 should be signed and dated by the veteran or their next of kin.

There are three ways to get your DD214. You can do it yourself, get someone else to apply on your behalf, or use a research company to do it for you.

It is free when you apply for your DD214 yourself. However, this could take anywhere from several weeks to several months. The same applies if someone else requests the form on your behalf. Remember that obtaining, completing, and faxing the SF 180 form costs nothing. Companies that merely provide this service seldom provide any benefit to you.

Research companies could obtain your DD214 as soon as the same day. In many cases, they can help you get your DD214 by the next day or within one week. These companies can obtain your DD214 so quickly because they send someone directly to the record center to retrieve your service records. Getting an immediate copy of your DD214 requires an authorization letter from you.

While a quick turn-around is a general promise, it could take longer. Do your homework if you choose to use a research company, as the speed and quality of their services can vary greatly.

Some companies advertise services to obtain a DD214 quicker than you could. However, not all of them send researchers to retrieve the records. Instead, they charge veterans or their families money to do what they could have done themselves. Before using such a company, confirm (from multiple sources, including review sites like the Better Business Bureau) whether the company sends a person to the National Personnel Records Center in St Louise, MO.

If you choose to use a company to submit a request for a DD214 on your behalf, remember that you will be providing them with sensitive and personal information. Be sure to research the company that you plan on using thoroughly before handing over your information and money.

How Quickly Can I Get My DD214?

The National Archives National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) is in charge of military personnel's records. Even so, they don't house all the records. In some cases, an individual's records might be held at a different records facility. Often, the original copy of a veteran's DD214 is temporarily kept by the military branch for which the person served before being sent to the NPRC.

The service records of persons who served before WWI are likely kept at the National Archives and Records Administration, Old Military and Civil Records Branch (NWCTB) in Washington, DC.

The records for service members who separated or retired recently (5 to 10 years) will likely still be held at the personnel or human resources division for their branch of service. Recent personnel records may be found in the following divisions:

· The Air Force Personnel Center for persons who served in the Air Force.

· Human Resources Command for persons who served in the Army.

· BUPERS for persons who served in the Marine Corps or Navy.

· The State Adjutant General Office where a member served in the National Guard (if never activated).

If your military service record is not at the NPRC, it is likely that your request will take longer to process. Using an agency could speed up the process as they can often submit your SF 180 form directly to the facility storing your records instead of going through the NPRC first.

According to the National Personnel Records Center, 75% of certified copies of separation documents can be generated within ten working days. More complicated cases could take up to five weeks. Most persons who request a DD214 form from the NPRC receive it within six to eight weeks.

Since the organization receives between 4,000 and 5,000 requests each day, it asks applicants to wait at least 90 days before sending a follow-up request, as this could cause more delays. You can check on the status of your request using the Online Status Update Request form as little as ten days after submitting your request.

Many records were destroyed in a fire that occurred at the National Personnel Records Center in 1973. The fire mostly ruined the records of Airforce and Army veterans, making it difficult for some individuals to obtain a copy of their documents. About 80 % of personnel discharged from the Army between November 1, 1912, and January 1, 1960, were lost or damaged in the fire. An estimated 75% of Air Force personnel discharged between September 25, 1947, and January 1, 1964 (with names alphabetically after Hubbard, James, E.) were lost or damaged.

If you think that your or your loved one's documents were destroyed or compromised in the 1973 fire, providing additional information with your request for a copy of your or their records would be a good idea. This includes the last unit of assignment, the place of discharge, and where you or they entered the service.

Suppose a veteran never registered with Veterans Affairs. In that case, the VA will not have the veteran's records on file, and they will need to be located elsewhere.

Once a request for retrieving a DD214 is received, the records become inaccessible until the request is processed. If you apply on your own and it takes too long, you will likely not benefit from trying to speed things up by going through a research company.

If your request is time sensitive, you can note this in the comments section of the request form. Here you can let the National Personnel Records Center know about any deadlines or other reasons why you urgently need your request handled. In most cases, the NPRC will try to prioritize these requests. This is especially true for requests for DD214s that are required to make funeral arrangements.

Are There Other Ways to Prove Military Service and Qualify for Veteran Benefits?

Some forms, like the DD Form 214, 215, 256, NGB Form 22, and similar forms, provide official proof that someone served in the military. These forms proving veteran status are usually required when applying for veterans' benefits.

There are other ways to prove Military Service if you lost your documents and cannot obtain them through official sources (for instance, if they were destroyed in the 1973 fire).

Although there are other ways to prove that you were in the military, not all of them can assist in obtaining or proving eligibility for Veteran Benefits. Here are a few ways you could potentially prove your Military Service:

· Payroll or tax records.

· Copies of old military service documents.

· Orders.

· Copies of military awards or decorations.

· Photos in uniform.

· Written statements from persons who served with you.

· Newspaper clippings.

· Old state or military records.

· Military ID cards.

·      VA issued ID Card for Health Care.

· Veterans ID card.

· Veterans Designation on your Drivers License or State Veterans ID card.

· Veterans Group Membership Card.

Making Corrections to Information on A DD214.

The information on a DD214 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 DD214 except for the corrections. Therefore, a DD215 can be used the same way as the DD214.

Veterans who have a dishonorable discharge status on their DD214 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 receiving 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 Form 214 will not be reissued except for special circumstances. However, a DD Form 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 DD214 cannot be properly corrected by issuing a DD215. Similarly, a DD214 might be reissued if it might require more than one DD215 to be issued to make corrections to the original DD214.

Lastly, a DD214 may be reissued if two DD215s have been issued and more corrections need to be made.

How Can Trajector Help Me?

Trajector specializes in helping people with disabilities apply for and receive the benefits that they are medically, legally, and ethically qualified for.

The team is skilled at developing medical evidence to obtain the VA disability benefits or VA survivor benefits that you are entitled to.

If you need any assistance, contact Trajector – their staff is there, ready to answer any and all questions you may have.

There may be a long wait when you request military service records. This is true when you request defense personnel records information like a copy of your DD214. It may be a good idea to have a certified copy made of important documents and keep these in a safe place.

In the event that your DD214 was lost or damaged and you need a copy, you can apply for one free of charge. Time-sensitive cases are usually prioritized, but it may be a good idea to approach a research company to send someone directly to the location where your files are kept.

Remember that Trajector can help you gather evidence (including medical records) that you may need to apply for any and all benefits you may be eligible for.