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.
How to Get a Copy of Your DD Form 214 (And What’s On the Document)
Veterans should treat their DD Form 214 like any other important document – birth and marriage certificates, wills, vehicle titles, land deeds, insurance policies, etc.
Note: there are other official military and DoD forms that show proof of military 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.
This guide covers how to get a copy of your DD-214 from either your branch of service, or from the National Archives.
First, The Information Found on Your DD Form 214
Your DD Form 214 is labeled your Certificate of 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.
We’ll also cover how to replace a lost, stolen, or damaged DD Form 214.
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.
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 property 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.
This is well worth the hassle if it saves you a significant amount of money on your property taxes.
How to Replace Your DD Form 214 (If Stolen/Lost/Damaged)
You should receive a copy of your DD Form 214 on the day you separate or retire from the military. In some cases, the form may not be ready. In these situations, the military will usually mail a copy to your home of record.
If you have recently separated or retired from the military, you can try contacting your last unit. They only maintain these records for a short time before forwarding them to the branch of service human resources or personnel command:
- Air Force – Air Force Personnel Center (AFPC)
- Army – Human Resources Command (HRC)
- Marines – Headquarters US Marine Corps
- Navy Personnel Command – BUPERS
I believe each branch maintains records for close to 10 years before they send records to the National Archives for permanent storage, but I’m not sure the specifics. If you have separated from the military within the last few years, check with your branch of service before the National Archives.
How To Get a Copy of Your DD Form 214 from the National Archives
If you have been out of the military more than a few years, you will need to contact the National Personnel Records Center to get a new copy of your DD Form 214.
The National Archives in St. Louis, MO processes most DD Form 214 requests. Veterans and their next of kin have two methods for requesting copies of military records.
Two methods for requesting military records:
- Electronic method. Use the eVetRecs system to create your request.
- Paper method. Mail or Fax a Standard Form SF-180. Print, sign, and date all copies of paper forms before submitting them. The address is listed at the end of the SF 180 and below as a point of reference.
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
Some Records May Not Be Available
There was a major fire at the National Archives in 1973 that permanently destroyed military records for thousands of veterans. Many other records were severely damaged. Unfortunately, many Cold War veterans records were permanently destroyed in the Fire of 1973 and the records may not be available.
You will need to contact the National Archives for more information.
Required Information to Request Replacement DD Form 214:
- Veteran’s complete name used while in service.
- Service number or Social security number.
- Branch of service.
- Dates of service.
- Date and place of birth (especially if the service number is not known).
- Recommended information (not required, but may help expedite the process): Purpose for request (applying for benefits, preparing to retire, researching personal military history), deadline, additional forms or information required.
If you believe your records may have been destroyed in the 1973 fire, then you should have the following information available:
- Place of discharge.
- Last unit of assignment.
- Place of entry into the service, if known.
The Privacy Act of 1974 requires all military records requests be submitted in writing. The veteran or next-of-kin must sign and date each DD Form 214 request.
National Archives 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:
- Toll-Free Number: 1-866-272-6272
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!
Who May Request Military Records?
Only the veteran or the next of kin of a deceased veteran can request a complete copy of a member’s military service records. This Is a common request for veterans or family members who need a copy of military records in order to obtain replacement medals or military decorations.
Limited information may be available to the general public.
The next-of-kin must provide proof of death of the veteran, such as a copy of death certificate, letter from funeral home, or published obituary when they are requesting a copy of the veteran’s military records.
Next-of-kin is defined as the surviving spouse that has not remarried, father, mother, son, daughter, sister, or brother. Relatives of the deceased veteran who are not considered next of kin can still request a copy of the military service records.
However, you need to complete Standard Form 180. Follow the instructions found here: Access to Military Records by the General Public and Researchers.
Additional Tips When Requesting Military Records
Replacing your DD Form 214 is not the end of the world. But it can take some time to replace.
Be patient. Standard requests for a copy of your DD Form 214 normally take at least 10 days or longer, but it can take several weeks to get it replaced in some circumstances. This is common if the records were involved in the fire of 1973.
You can check the status of your request via e-mail or by telephone at NPRC Customer Service Line: 1-314-801-0800.
Note: this is not a toll-free number.
Avoid military records scams: Most military records are provided by the National Archives free of charge for veterans, next-of-kin, and authorized representatives. If your request involves a service fee, you will be notified by a representative from the National Archives.
There are some companies out there who charge exorbitant fees to do research which can be done by you for free. Keep in mind you must also provide these companies with sensitive and private personal information including your social security number.