The DD Form 214, Discharge Papers and Separation Documents is most important military document you will ever receive. This form serves as your proof of military service and is often used to verify military service for benefits such as the GI Bill, VA Loan, VA medical benefits, retirement benefits, employment, and membership in veteran’s organizations.
Because your DD Form 214 is so important, it is imperative you keep a copy of it for proof of service or eligibility for benefits, organization membership, or other programs. Unfortunately, things happen and your DD Form 214 can get lost, damaged, or stolen. The following instructions can help you replace your DD Form 214 if you need another copy.
How to Replace DD Form 214
Getting a copy of your DD Form 214 will depend on how long it has been since you separated or retired from the military. If you have recently separated, you will get a copy from your branch of service. If it has been a long time, you will need to contact the National Archives. I’m not sure what the cut off is for “recent” and “long time”, but I believe each branch maintains personnel records for about 10 years before sending them to the National Archives. If you separated within the last 10 years, try your branch of service first. If they don’t have it, or if it has been more than 10 years, then try the National Archives. More info on each situation follows.
Recent Separation from Military
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’m not sure how long each branch maintains records, but I believe it is for close to 10 years before they send records to the National Archives for permanent storage.
Getting a Copy of Your DD Form 214 from the National Archives
The National Archives in St. Louis, MO processes all 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.
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.
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. 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
- Be patient. Standard requests for a copy of your DD Form 214 normally take at least 10 days or longer. 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.