Your DD Form 214, Verification of Military Service, is one of the most valuable military service records you will ever hold. Your DD Form 214 verifies your military service and includes information about your military service. Much of this information is required if you later wish to rejoin the military, apply for veterans benefits, or even apply for certain state or federal jobs.
Without your DD Form 214, you are ineligible for veteran’s benefits, including VA medical care, the GI Bill, VA Loans, and many other veterans benefits programs. Veterans should treat their DD Form 214 like any other important document – birth and marriage certificates, wills, vehicle titles, land deeds, insurance policies, etc. Like all military records, you should keep it forever.
Note: there are other official military and DoD forms that show proof of service or serve as discharge papers, including the DD Form 256, which is common for members of the Guard or Reserves. Those forms are important, but may not be accepted in place of a DD Form 214. in most cases, the DD Form 214 is the required form for veterans benefits.
Information Found on Your DD Form 214
Your DD Form 214 is labeled your Certificate or Release or Discharge from Active Duty. Everyone who served on active duty should have been issued a copy of their DD From 214. If not, we’ll cover how to get a copy later in this article.
The DD Form 214 contains the following information (numbers designate which item on the form; note: this is the FEB 2000 version – other versions may differ):
- Complete name used while in the service
- Branch of service
- Social Security Number (Service Number may be used in other versions)
- a) Grade, Rate, or Rank, b) Pay Grade
- Date of Birth
- Reserve Obligation Termination Date (for those who transfer into the Regular Reserves or Inactive Ready Reserve upon transition from active duty).
- a) Place of Entry into Military Service, b) Home of Record
- a) Last Duty Assignment and Major Command, b) Station Where You Separated from Active Duty
- Command to Which Transferred
- SGLI Coverage Amount (if any)
- Primary Duty Specialty (MOS, AFSC, Rating, etc.). This can include multiple duties and the number of years and months served in this capacity.
- Record of Service – Dates entered and separated from active duty; total active duty time if you have served on active duty more than once (common with members of the Guard or Reserves); Foreign Service, Sea Service, and more.
- Decorations, Medals, Badges, Citations, and Campaign Ribbons Awarded or Authorized (this section is small; this may be continued in the remarks section if you have a large number of authorized ribbons, medals, and decorations).
- Military Education (to include course title, course duration, and month and year completed)
- a) VEAP Participation (yes or no); b) High school graduate or equivalent (yes or no)
- Amount of Leave Sold Back
- Member received dental exam within 90 days before separation (yes or no)
- Remarks (continuation of decorations and awards or other remarks).
- a) Mailing address after separation, b) Nearest Relative and address
- Request copy to be sent to Direct of Veterans Affairs for State of Residence
- Member Signature
- Signature of Official Authorizing Separation from Active Duty
- Type of Separation (Release from Active Duty, etc.)
- Character of Service (Discharge Type – Honorable, Dishonorable, etc.).
- Separation Authority (my DD Form 214 shows AFI 36-3208, which is an Air Force Instruction; most DD Form 214s probably show a branch specific reference).
- Separation Code
- Reentry Code (also known as RE Code) – this determines whether or not you are eligible to join the military again.
- Narrative Reason for Separation (mine lists Completion of Active Service; yours may vary depending on the reason for your separation).
- Dates of Time Lost During This Period (mine lists None; yours may vary depending on unique circumstances)
- Member Initials Requesting a Copy of DD Form 214.
As you can see, your DD Form 214 is a one page synopsis of your career. Some of the most important line items show your total number of days of active duty service, authorized decorations, awards, and campaign ribbons, military education and training, and more.
All of these items can be used to help determine your eligibility for certain veterans benefits programs. This is also why the DD Form 214 is almost always required when applying for veterans benefits programs, veterans preference points for federal service, buying back military service credits for federal service, and more.
Safeguard your DD Form 214
One of the most important things you can do is maintain the security of all your military records. I recommend keeping several copies. Because it has your SSN and other private information, you should keep your copy locked away in a lock box or safety deposit box – you don’t want to become a victim of identity theft because someone swiped your SSN from your military records.
Personally, I keep an original physical copy under lock and key and I keep scanned copies backed up on my computer and in the cloud. Having multiple copies ensures I never lose this essential document. Here is more information about storing military records.
Consider registering it with your county or town hall
Your DD Form 214 can be registered with many town halls or county registrars, just like a land deed or vehicle title. You can consider doing this to maintain a record of your service, because it will make document retrieval quick and easy. Make sure state or local laws do not permit public access to your DD Form 214 before registering your DD Form 214 with any office. Because it has your SSN, you may be exposing your private information to the world, making you an easy target for identity theft.
You may also consider getting your DD Form 214 registered or notarized with your town registrar to keep it on file for certain veterans benefits, such as tax assessments. Some counties offer veterans with disability ratings discounted property taxes. However, they usually require a copy of both your DD From 214 and your award letter from the VA stating your service-connected disability rating.
Replace Your DD Form 214
Replacing your DD Form 214 is not the end of the world. But it can take some time to replace. One to two weeks is a reasonable estimate, but it can take several weeks to get it replaced in some circumstances. You will need to contact the National Personnel Records Center to get a new copy of your DD Form 214. There are two primary methods:
- Use the eVetRecs request system.
- Mail or Fax Standard Form SF-180 (you can also write a letter if you are unable to obtain a SF 180).
Mail the SF-180 to the National Records Center at the following address:
National Personnel Records Center
Attention: [Your Service, e.g., Air Force] Records
9700 Page Boulevard
St. Louis, MO 63132-5000
Customer Support via Telephone:
The National Archives no longer processes DD Form 214 requests via phone. The National Archives does maintain a customer service support line for other military records inquiries. Here are the National Records Personnel Center telephone information lines:
- Non-emergency – DD214, military history, SF-180: 314-801-9195
- Burials or medical emergencies only: 314-801-0764
- For Homeless Veterans only: 314-801-9201
- Military Signature pages only: 314-801-9049
Be sure to have the following information available when you make your request:
- Your full name
- Social Security number
- Current phone number (including area code)
- Approximate dates of service
- Place of discharge
- Return address
- Reason for request
You can find more information about replacing your DD Form 214, including which forms you will need to send to the National Personnel Records Center, at the National Archives website. Remember, it can take a long time to get your document replaced, so take care of it. It is the most important military document you have!