Understanding Form DD-214Updated May 5, 2021 Veterans 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.
Information Included on Form DD-214
Date and Place of Entry Into Active Duty
Home Address When at Entry into Active Duty
Military Job Specialty
Decorations, Medals, Badges, and Campaign Awards
Last Assignment and Rank
Overseas Service Description
Combat Service Information
Details of Separation
Condition of Discharge
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. Family members of deceased veterans need the DD-214 to apply for funeral or survivor benefits.
Because this document has so many beneficial uses, it is vital to 1) verify that it is correct and 2) safeguard it after you receive it. And because veterans benefits fraud is so high, it's possible some thieves might steal the document to access your social security number or other personal information. If the DD-214 form is lost, you can request another copy or download it online.
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. Given to a veteran at or shortly after discharge from the military, the DD-214 is an important document and should be secured.
It used to be common for veterans to keep a certified copy of their DD-214 at their County Clerk’s Office, so it can 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 also have the option to 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. As of March 2021, the NPRC is only servicing emergency requests due to limited staff availability imposed by COVID-19 restrictions. Emergency requests must be related to medical treatment, burial, or services for homeless veterans. Complete and sign a Standard Form 180 and fax it to (314) 801-0764 if you have an emergency request.
Can I request someone else’s DD-214?
You can request a copy of a deceased veteran’s DD-214 if you are an immediate family member, such as an unmarried widow or widower, child, parent, or sibling of the deceased veteran. You will need to submit documentation that verified the veteran’s death, such as a death certificate or letter from the funeral home. Requests can be sent through the eVetRecs application or by mailing or faxing the Standard Form 180.
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 will be on the form, along with the place, whether that’s a military installation or Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). This date is crucial to determining the total length of military service.
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 is listed, along with how much time you spent in that MOS. 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
Another important piece of information for veterans in their civilian job search or education goals is a record of their military education. This information appears on the DD-214. The military education section lists course titles, course length, and course completion dates.
5. Decorations, Medals, Badges, and Campaign Awards
Awards, medals, badges, and decorations that a service member earns while in the military are recorded on the DD-214, including campaign ribbons from deployments. Be sure this section is accurate and complete. It is much easier to add missing awards during discharge while personnel records are close at hand.
The DD-214 also contains 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 of the United States, is specified on the DD-214.
9. Combat Service Description
Combat service information, including location and dates, 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, and they may affect 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. To do this, 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 its own personnel office that controls military personnel records and handles DD-214 correction requests.
Does a DD-214 make you a veteran?
Since there are many different definitions of what makes someone a “veteran,” it’s hard to say that having a DD-214 makes you a veteran. Having a DD-214 means you have served in the Armed Forces in active duty. Reservists, service members who serve 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.
How do I upgrade my DD-214 discharge?
The six types of characterizations of service are:
General (under honorable conditions)
Other than honorable
Most benefit programs require a characterization of anything other than dishonorable service, but you should check specific eligibility requirements before applying.
When a service member fails 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 show reasons 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.
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 passes away, immediate family members will need the DD-214 for funeral and burial benefits. There may also be VA survivor benefits and VA dependent benefits available to the deceased veteran’s family. The DD-214 Form is needed, along with a marriage and birth certificate to apply for these benefits.
Understanding the Importance of Form DD-214
The DD Form 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 Form 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 Form 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 right away. A missing or incorrect DD 214 can delay valuable benefits.