Can You Use a DD Form 256 to Get a DD Form 214?

DD Form 256Military and veterans benefits often vary from person to person. There are many factors that determine which benefits you may be eligible for, including when and where you served, how long you were in the service, and whether your were on active duty or in the Guard or Reserves. Our question today is from a former Reservist who received a DD Form 256, and wants to know if this can be used to obtain a DD Form 214 in order to qualify for certain Veterans Benefits.

Here is his question:

I am wondering if you have had any experience helping a veteran receive a DD214. I was in the USAFR from January 1967 through January 1973, Honorably Discharged. I received my DD256 but it is not sufficient to qualify for Medical Benefits. The requirement is to have a DD214. My question involves determining if there is a process to now secure a DD214. Any assistance would be appreciated.

Thanks for contacting me. This is a common question among former Guard and Reserve members. Let’s define a couple common military discharge forms to better answer your question.

  • DD Form 214: Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty
  • DD Form 256: Honorable Discharge Certificate
  • DD Form 257: General Discharge Certificate

A DD Form 214 is only issued to servicemembers when they separate from active duty service. Members of the Guard and Reserves receive a Discharge Certificate upon completion of their service agreement and their time in the IRR. If a member of the Reserve Corps serves on Active Duty during his or her time in the military, then he or she would be issued a DD Form 214 when they leave active duty service (this often applies to activation under Title 10 orders and other circumstances).

Members of the Guard or Reserves who have been activated more than once may have been issued more than one DD Form 214. The paperwork gets tricky in these circumstances, because technically, the member is released from his Guard commitment and immediately enrolled on active duty service. At the end of the activation period, the member is discharged from active duty, issued a DD Form 214, and reinstated into his or her Guard or Reserve status. Confused yet? VetsCVC has a graphic which shows this in better detail.

Why a DD Form 214 is Important

As alluded to in the reader question, a DD Form 214 is often required by the VA and other benefits organizations to qualify for veterans benefits. It is the key to proving military service and qualifying for a variety of veterans benefits. Because of this, a veteran’s DD Form 214 is probably his or her most valuable military document.

The instructions the veteran receives with the DD Form 214 are simple: Don’t lose it! (It’s OK if you did; we will how you how to get a replacement further down the page).

But what if you never received a DD Form 214? All active duty servicemembers are issued a DD Form 214 when they separate from active duty.If you didn’t receive a DD Form 214 when you left the service, you should contact your last unit if you separated recently. Otherwise you should contact the National Archives, where military service records are maintained.

Members of the Reserve Corp only receive a DD Form 214 when they served on active duty. If you served in the Guard or Reserves, but were never activated, you may not have a DD Form 214. This is the case even if you successfully and honorably served your term. Guard and Reserve members who complete their term of service are issued a DD Form 256 (Honorable Discharge Certificate) or DD Form 257 (General Discharge Certificate) upon completion of their term.

If you were activated while part of the Reserves, then you should have a DD Form 214. However, some older Guard or Reserve members have reported they don’t remember receiving a physical form. If this is the case, and you should have received a DD Form 214, then you will need to contact the National Archives to obtain a copy of your DD Form 214.

How to get Copies of Your Records

Here are some tips for getting copies of your DD Form 214, military records, and other information:

Correcting Errors in Your Military Records

If there is an error in your military records and you were supposed to have been issued a DD Form 214, but for some reason it was never issued, then you would need to file a request with the Board of Corrections for Military Records. That can be done with DD Form 149, Application for Correction of Military Records. You will need to substantiate any request for change of military records with evidence, such as a copy of your orders, travel vouchers, signed statements from your commanding officer or someone you served with, or other evidence. Filling out this type of form is outside of the scope of this article, but you should be able to obtain free assistance with any of these issues at your county or state Veterans Affairs office, or through a Veterans Service Organization such as the DAV, VFW, American Legion, etc.

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Date published: June 13, 2013.

Article by

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of this site. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is currently serving in the IL Air National Guard. He also writes about money management, small business, and career topics at Cash Money Life. You can also see his profile on Google.


  1. Rick Voss says

    Here’s what’s confusing about that. Anyone who serves in the reserves typically has at least 6 months’ active duty. In my case, with USMCR, that was 6 months for training. I don’t think that qualifies as “active duty” for purposes of veteran’s benefits or qualification for a DD-214, but I’ve never seen that question answered directly. Can anyone answer that question? Are there 2 kinds of active duty, where active duty only for training is not real “active duty”?

    • says

      Active duty for training doesn’t always count for all benefits purposes. It can get very confusing, depending on service records and various benefits requirements. The best course of action is contacting a veterans benefits office that can help you go through your service records, time of service, and other factors to help you determine your benefits eligibility.

      • LaTonya Parker says

        FOR RESERVISTS: VA Guidance states that all Active Duty periods which includes your 15 days on Annual Training counts towards your Federal Retirement and Leave. Note that the guidance for prior reservist is different than for Active Duty and National Guard. Take your retirement into your own hands and read the guidance yourself on OPMs site. Alot of VA HR Benefits Personnel think that Reservist guidance is the same as all others but it is not for the simple reason that the reserves is different. Drills don’t count. You will only have a DD Form 214 for Active Duty periods of 30 days or more. For all other active duty days, you were on orders (1610s or 938s, etc), which states that you were on Active Duty and the dates. You should be able to request copies of your orders from your reserve military branch that archives your records. I am prior active and reserve, and have about 5 years of active time while in the reserves. About 2.5 of those years are accounted for on my DD 214s, but the rest is accounted for on my 256 and the supporting copies of my orders. Not sure about every branch, but the Air Force Reserve providing us with a 256 every year that has a complete breakdown of all Active dates (starting and ending) performed for that year. I did not have a copy for my last reserve year so I printed off one from our records site but it doesn’t show the complete breakdown of dates, but it shows each fiscal year and my total active time for that fiscal year. This process will take a lot of work on your part because you will have to put every Active Duty date on the forms to request your earnings for buyback. I have a huge stack of orders because I hardly ever did my 15 days together, so I have an order for 1, 2, or 3 days in most cases, and each order has to be entered separately. Then once DFAS gets it, no telling how long it will be before I get my military earnings statement back because they have to account for each individual order. Then once I do get my earnings statement, my VA Human Resources Benefits Rep has to enter every single 214 and order as well because all entries have to have a start and end date. Hopefully this helps. Trust me, I have my HR Benefits person scratching his head because they have never processed reservist the way that they should because they don’t pay any attention to the prior active duty that actually shows on the 214 but that is not actually all accounted for by just using a 214. I wonder how many reservist are out there that have no clue if all their active time is accounted for. Hopefully by the time I finish, they will have more guidance and training for the VA Benefits Personnel. Do your research and don’t leave any time unaccounted for because it counts for federal retirement and leave.

    • Bill says

      This article is wrong! Reserve and Guard get issued 214 / 215 after completion of initial entry training. It will say Honorable Discharge even though you are still serving. FYI: There are 2 forms, long and short. The long form will have discharge info. If you are activated, you will get another 214 to cover the time on active duty.

      Please no one post bull crap replies, I know what I talking about. 11B4PX / 79R

      • Oscar Hudson says

        Actually, you’re partially correct, but I won’t say what as you will need to refresh your toolbox as there were lots of changes regarding this very issue. Nevertheless, don’t be upset pumpkin, it won’t be the last time someone will correct you. Thanks for serving and take care.
        P.s. Someone who was recently on the board to make these changes.

  2. Denise Haystrand says

    I have a question regarding my father’s form and burial benefits. I have recently come across a DD Form 256 AF for my dad. Both my mother and father have passed away and are cremated and in Urns. We would like to place them into a cemetery and was wondering if this form would qualify for a Military Cemetery. Please advise.

    Thank you,

  3. Richard Flynn says

    I served 8 years active duty in the US Navy Aviation during Vietnam war. I was honorably discharged (DD-FORM 214N) as pay grade E-6. I immediately joined the US Navy Reserves (inactive). I served 7 years in the USN-R and was honorably discharged (DD FORM 256N) as pay grade E-7. It is now 33 years later and I am 100% disabled, caused from Agent Orange. I am going through all the processes now for disability benefits. I just came back from a local Air Force Reserve Base after applying for and receiving my ID and Privilege card as a status/grade; DAVPRM/E6. I could not get an ID card as pay grade E-7 because I only have the DD FORM 256N showing me being discharged as an E-7. They would only accept a DD FORM 214 to receive my ID card which shows being discharged as an E-6. Can I ask for a DD FORM 214 in addition to my DD FORM 256N so I can receive benefits as an E-7 since I do not have any broken time between my active duty and my reserve duty?

  4. Louis Elsner says

    I received a Honorable Discharge DD Form 256A on 31 August 1965. I joined sometime in October 1959 and served 6 months active duty at Ft Leonardwood, MO. Am I considered a veteran? Thank you.

    • says

      Yes, Louis, you are considered a veteran. However, the Veterans Affairs office has different qualifications for earning different benefits. You would need to check with them to see what you are eligible to receive.

  5. Harry Poole says

    I spent 12-years, 2-months in USMCR and have always had the same question as asked by Rick Voss above. I was never deployed for “active duty”, but as he states, I did boot camp and all sorts of ADT training every year (usually 2-3 week at a time).

    I requested my military records from NPRC (National Personnel Record Center), which showed DD-214 records but they were all for ADT (active duty for training).

    So now I think none of this really qualifies for any true veteran benefits, correct? (I’m not wanting anything special in terms of benefits; just a few military discounts here & there). Who do I contact to confirm if I qualify for anything?

    • says

      Thanks for your comment, Harry. Military discounts are up to individual stores – and they vary widely in terms of who is eligible. Some stores only offer discounts to current service members, some include retirees, and some also include veterans who served, but didn’t stay in long enough to retire. It’s best to have some form of ID that shows proof of service.

      The best way is with a military ID card (not applicable for you, but it would be for others), a VA Issued ID card, or a drivers license or other state ID card with a veterans designation. Those links will help you find more information on how to get one of those forms of ID.

      You might also be able to prove your military service with a membership card to a military organization such as the VFW, American Legion, or similar service organization.

      Regarding veterans benefits: This will vary depending on many factors. Benefits are often available at the local, state, and federal level, and all of them have different eligibility guidelines. The best way to find out which benefits you are eligible to receive is by contacting the VA and scheduling an appointment to discuss possible benefits. You are likely eligible for the VA Loan, and it’s possible you are eligible for other benefits. Local and state benefits also vary and will depend on your service, which benefits are available, requirements for the benefits, etc.

      Another good place to go for benefits assistance is through a veterans service organization such as the VFW, American Legion, or similar organization. They have trained volunteers who can help you navigate the benefits system to learn what you may be eligible for. I hope this is helpful, and thanks for your service!

  6. Daniel says

    I am trying to enlist in the National Guard. I am a honorably discharged Army Reservist. I was separated in 2007. I have my dd214 for basic and ait. I do not have any paperwork with my separation or re codes on them. I have already contacted records and they sent me my whole service record. There is still no separation or re codes. All I have is my discharge notice which states honorable discharge for reserve component and my honorable certificate. Where do I find my separation and RE codes?

    • says

      Daniel, Your DD 214 will normally have a reenlistment code on it. However, I’m not sure if the DD 214 includes a reenlistment code if you only had a DD 214 for training purposes and you were going directly back into your Reserve unit. I’m not exactly sure how it would work in this situation. My recommendation is to ask your recruiter to walk you through the process to make you get the correct paperwork you need. Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful, but I’m not sure the regs here.

      Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  7. Ken Wolf says

    I, too, served under the AFRTA (Armed Forces Reserve Training Act of 1954), which included 6 months active duty followed by (I think) 4 1/2 years active reserve and 3 years inactive reserve (no weekly meetings or summer camp) for a total of 8 years. I received a DD256A at the end of my total commitment in 1964.

    If I remember correctly, those of us in AFRTA served a certain number of days (maybe 180) which is not enough to qualify for most military-related benefits.

    Everyone who served under this program should proudly consider themselves a veteran; after all we were serving and subject to call-up for our entire 8 year commitment. By the same token, we should also recognize that our service was not equal, as far as earned benefits are concerned, to those who actually spent 2, 4, or more years eating army chow and army b.s.

  8. Luigi AEsposito says

    I was ordered to report for armed forces physical examination Mar 18th 1957. I was found fully acceptable for induction in the armed forces, on May 12, 1958 I was inducted in the service. I went to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for one month & 12 days we agreed that if I had a job back home I could get an honorable discharge but I would be on call for 7 years. When I used to get the post card to report they would give me 24 hr. or 48 hr. My discharge papers DD Form 256A. What is it? Am I a veteran?

    • says

      Luigi, A DD Form 256 is the discharge form used by the military reserves. Basically it shows that you served with a military reserve unit, and often includes information such as dates and locations served, your career field, discharge classification (Honorable, less than honorable, etc.). This is your proof of service.

      Are you a veteran? You are in my book. However, the government has certain requirements people must meet before they are eligible for certain veterans benefits through the VA or through your state. You often need to have served a minimum of 180 days on active duty, served in war, or served a certain amount of time in the Guard or Reserves (usually a certain number of days on duty).

      I won’t be able to give you any specifics regarding which benefits you may be eligible to receive. You would need to contact the VA to see if you are eligible for any benefits. They will be able to go through your military records and give you an idea if you are eligible for any benefits. I hope this is helpful, and thanks for your service!

  9. Diane says

    I have a question about a reconstructed DD214 that says “For Training Purposes Only”. What exactly does this mean?

    My father was on duty for the Little Rock integration, went to meetings, training etc. My father who has since passed received a reconstructed DD214 when his was lost in the St Louis fire. My father said that whom ever reconstructed it added the “For Training Purposes Only” to the one sent to him. When mom went to get his benefits she was denied. Because of the ‘wordage’ my mother gets no benefits which she could desperately use.

    Any help with information would be such a blessing.

    Thank you.

  10. Craig Edsen says

    I was in the US Army Reserves for 14 years, 1970-1984— no active duty just ADT. I have a DD Form 256A. I am trying to get on my driver license that I am a VET. I know I don’t qualify for government medical benefits, etc. All I want is to be able to show on my drivers license to some local retailers that I was a vet for their discount- nothing to do with any government benefits. Can someone help me? I want it on my drivers license. Thank you.

  11. Craig Edsen says

    I was in the US Army Reserves for 14 years, 1970-1984— no active duty just ADT. I have a DD Form 256A. I am trying to get on my driver license that I am a VET. I know I don’t qualify for government medical benefits, etc. All I want is to be able to show on my drivers license to some local retailers that I was a vet for their discount- nothing to do with any government benefits. Can someone help me? I want it on my drivers license. Thank you.

    • Sandra says

      Just show a copy of a your dd214 when you did basics training. That is all I did and I received my driver license.

    • says

      Derrick, There are specific rules for medical retirement benefits. You will need to contact your branch of service about this. If you need assistance with any claims, I recommend contacting a Veterans Service Officer at your county, or through a Veterans Service Organization such as the VFW, DAV, American Legion, etc. Here are some recommended organizations. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  12. Ralph says

    It seems I’m on the outside looking in with many other former/retired service members. We are the reservists who never deployed, thus no “active duty” as far as the VA is concerned. We’ve all spent many years, 28 in my case, serving, wearing the uniform and standing ready and willing to deploy as needed. We all have many weeks and months of ADT/AT (Active Duty for Training/Active Training) to show for it, sometimes in hazardous environments and situations. For what? No VA or burial benefits? Some of our “active duty” friends look down on us for having never gone down range or got shot at in a hostile environment. Remember, we’ve all serve differently. We didn’t all take the same military career path. But the bottom line is, WE’VE ALL SERVED. We all signed a blank check to be cashed with our lives if necessary! We all took the oath and took the risk. Seems like EVERY service member should be issued a Form DD214 for all “active” service, reserve or active and be allowed VA benefits accordingly. Not to diminish the service of those who were deployed, but both traditional active duty or active duty for training should be recognized with a Form DD214. I’m not even asking for medical benefits. But, they should be available in varying degrees to ALL service members who served on active duty or in the reserves. At the very least, all service members should be entitled to burial benefits in a military or state memorial park with graveside honors. It’s time to re-think how we think of “active duty”.

  13. Doug XNAVY says

    I am trying to have all my military time counted toward my Army civilian retirement. I have purchased all my active time a few years ago. All my time was approved by OPM & DFAS using my supporting documentation. However there is a problem with proving all the active time for my Army civilian retirement.
    I enlisted for 4ry in 1967. 3yr 9mo later I re-enlisted for 6yr. The DD214N shows the re-enlistment date as date of active service for this period (block 15).
    The DD214N also shows my total time for pay as 9yr 9mo 29days which is correct. The problem here is that OPM requires supporting FROM and TO dates.
    The DD214N does not include blocks for DATE of ENTRY or Prior Regular Enlistments as the ARMY DD214 does. Therefor I cannot support my initial 3yr 9mo+ time in my civilian retirement. No pay slips no orders from that time period. Of course the DD256 certificate is worthless for supporting dates for OPM. Anybody out there from the NAVSTA data processing shop Keflavik 1968-70? Since this does not appear to be an error on the DD214N how do I capture my time? Thank You

    • says

      Doug, Thank you for contacting me. To be honest, I don’t have much experience working this type of issue. I’m not sure how you can get this information, short of contacting the National Archives to determine if they have any copies of your military records that support your service dates. Perhaps the folks at the National Archives have more information on sourcing military records. Other than this, I’m not sure where to go. I wish you the best in getting copies of your service records!

  14. Francisco says

    Hi I was wondering I didn’t finish basic training but got an honorable discharge am I eligible to be buried in a military cemetery.
    Thank you Francisco

    • Chris D says

      No you do not. Especially if your referring to a national cemetery. Their guidelines are very strict and serving only a couple weeks doesn’t even qualify you as a veteran yet alone to be buried in a place of such high honor. Sorry to be so blunt but it is what it is.

  15. Juan Vasquez says

    I joined the Navy Sea-bees (reserves) in 1989 and during desert storm my unit nmcb22 was activated by from what i remember the president. We were to get our affairs in order and at a given date we were going to be sent to another base for additional training. After the training we were then to be shipped out to participate in desert storm. However, desert storm had ended rather fast and we never even made it for the additional training. My question- even though i did not see any active duty do i qualify for a DD214? Getting activated by a presidential order does it qualify me for a DD214?

    • says

      Juan, Thank you for contacting me. I believe you should be eligible for a DD214 if your unit was officially activated. You should contact the Navy Personnel Command (BUPERS). They should have a record of all your service dates and statuses. You should be able to use those records to obtain a DD214 if your unit was officially activated. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  16. Betsy says

    I have a question; My Father retired from the Army in 1967 after 25 years. He is elderly ill now and we are going through the application process to get benefits for Nursing Home care for him. We are told that because of his dates and type of service he is eligible. I am not sure he has ad DD214, I found a DD256A should he also have a DD214?

    Any help is greatly appreciated.

    Thank you,

  17. Richard Stein says

    I completed the six month us army reserve program 1n 1957 and six or seven years active reserve. One drill per month, two weeks per year training. Also weekend drills. Am I entitled to any benefits at all. Received Honorable Discharge. I am now 77 years old. Thank you
    Richard STEIN

    • says

      Richard, Thank you for contacting me. Benefits vary based on individual circumstances, so I can’t tell you exactly which benefits you may be eligible to receive.he best way to know if you are eligible for any veterans benefits is to contact a veterans benefits counselor to give you a customized benefits review session. There are many organizations that offer free benefits claims assistance, including the DAV, VFW, and others.

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