A DD Form 214 is a Certificate of Release or Discharge From Active Duty. Veterans and service members must apply for certain military benefits, college discounts, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) loans, association membership, and other benefits.
If you are a veteran or a family member of a veteran looking to obtain copies of military service records, this article will detail all the information you need.
What is the DD Form 214?
The DD-214 document proves military service and discharge from the military. The Department of Defense (DOD) issues this certificate to every service member upon discharge.
This DD Form 214 details how the discharge occurred, which can be:
- Other than honorable
A “dishonorable” discharge disqualifies veterans from VA burial benefits. Veterans discharged “other than honorable” are still entitled to VA benefits depending on the discharge type.
What Information is on the DD Form 214?
The DD Form 214 includes details of a service member’s separation from service. Apart from the discharge status of the personnel, the DD-124 may include other information, such as:
- Date and place of entry into active duty
- Home address at the time of entry
- Date and place of release from active duty
- Home address after separation from the military
- Last rank and duty assignment
- Military education
- Military job specialty (MOS)
- Awards, decorations, badges, citations, and campaign awards related to military service
- Total creditable service, both domestic and foreign
- Separation information (date and type of separation, the reason for separation, reenlistment eligibility codes, etc.)
Who Gets a DD-214?
Every veteran receives a short and long copy of their DD Form 214 upon discharge from the military. Copies are also sent to federal and state agencies, including the VA.
The original copy of the document usually stays at the military branch for which the veteran served. After a certain amount of time, the government moves it to a permanent federal archive.
Military personnel in active or inactive reserves are not entirely separated from service. Therefore, they cannot obtain a DD Form 214 yet. The same applies to National Guard members or personnel who haven’t completed service or have been formerly discharged.
The two forms:
- Copy 1: Short DD Form 214 (aka the Deleted Form of Separation or Edited Form of Separation)
- Copy 4: Long- DD Form 214 (aka the Undeleted Form of Separation)
The long form includes information about the service member’s nature of the discharge. Employers and government agencies may require the long DD Form 214 when the veteran’s discharge status is relevant, such as for security purposes. The long form may also be necessary for certain military benefits.
Where Do You Get a DD Form 214?
Upon official discharge, the office from which you are discharged will personally provide a copy of your DD Form 214 or mail it to you. If you lose your DD Form 214 or are a relative of a veteran that needs it, you can request another copy.
Veterans and family members can obtain a DD Form 214 from The National Archives. You can send a signed and dated request via fax or mail to the National Archives National Personnel Record Center (NPRC) using the Standard Form 180 (SF-180) Request Pertaining to Military Records.
NPRC Fax Number :
NPRC Mailing Address:
National Personnel Records Center
Military Personnel Records
1 Archives Drive
St. Louis, MO 63138
Can I View My DD-214 Online?
You can also send a request online through eVetRecs. After completing the DD-214 form PDF on the web page, print, sign, and either fax or mail the signature page to the address specified on the request form.
Who May Request a DD Form 214?
You may request military records if you are a veteran or the next of kin of a deceased veteran. The next of kin can be any of the following:
- A surviving spouse who was not remarried
A next of kin must provide proof of the veteran’s death to make a request. Valid documents include a death certificate, a published obituary, or a letter from the funeral home.
If the veteran is still alive, the requester must obtain authorization from the veteran or next of kin to obtain military service and medical records. The authorization must:
- Be in writing
- Include additional information or copies the NPRC may release
- Include the signature of the veteran or next of kin
Without authorization from the veteran or the next of kin, the NPRC can only release limited information from non-archival OMPF.
What Information Do You Need to Make a Request?
You will need the following information to request copies of military records:
- The veteran’s complete name as used in service
- Military service number or Social Security Number
- Branch of service
- Dates of service
- Date and place of birth (especially if the service number is unknown)
On July 12, 1973, a fire at NPRC destroyed an estimated 16 to 19 million Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF). If you served in the Air Force before 1964 (and your name comes after Hubbard, James E.) or the Army before 1960, there is a high chance your records are gone.
If you suspect that your records have been affected by the 1973 fire, you might want to include the following:
- Place of discharge
- Last duty assignment
- Place of entry into active duty, if known
The following information is optional but can help staff obtain and fulfill your request:
- The purpose of the request, e.g., application for certain funeral benefits
- Other specific information, documents, or records you need from your Official Military Personnel File aside from your DD Form 214.
Do You Need to Pay For a DD Form 214?
Generally, veterans, family members, and authorized representatives can obtain free copies of basic military service and medical record information. However, there is a fee for military personnel records with discharge dates over 62 years ago. These records are considered “archival.”
The fees for archival requests are as follows:
- A routine OMPF of 5 pages or less: $25 flat fee
- A routine OMPF of 6 pages or more: $70 flat fee (most OMPFs fall in this category)
- Persons of Exceptional Prominence (PEP) OMPF: $.80 per page ($20 minimum)
The NPRC will notify you if your request requires a service fee.
What is The Purpose of a DD Form 214?
Aside from serving as an official record of the end of your military career, a DD Form 214 is necessary for specific actions based on your military history. Typical situations that require a DD Form 214 include but are not limited to the following:
Returning to Military Service
If you want to reenlist in the military, your DD Form 214 is your best recommendation, proving your past military history. However, certain statuses on the form may prevent you from reenlistment, such as a dishonorable military discharge.
Future employers might want to know the status of your discharge from the military. For instance, some government employers and private contractors from government agencies may be unable to hire a dishonorably discharged veteran.
On the other hand, a DD Form 214 can help you apply for private companies that want to support and hire veterans.
The Department of Veterans Affairs provides numerous benefits to veterans and their families. The DD Form 214 will determine if you are eligible for these benefits based on your manner of discharge.
With a DD Form 214 and appropriate discharge status, you may be able to receive the following benefits:
- Disability Compensation: The VA provides medical benefits and monthly compensation for former military members who developed a disability or illness caused by military service.
- Burial and Cremation Benefits: The VA pays for burial and funeral expenses for service and non-service-related deaths. Claimants must present proof of the veteran’s death, such as a death certificate, published obituary, and funeral home or cemetery receipts.
- Housing Loans: You must meet the minimum active-duty service requirement to apply for a VA home loan. The minimum active-duty service requirement for veterans depends on when they served, and eligibility may require an honorable or general discharge.
- Disability Housing Grants: The VA provides housing grants for veterans with service-connected disabilities to help them live more independently.
- Small Business Support: Veterans who own small businesses may obtain support from the VA, including access to resources and advantages when bidding on government contracts.
- Veterans Pension Program: Veterans who served on active duty during wartime may apply for Veterans Pension benefits if they are at least 65, have a service-related disability, and have limited or no income.
- Aid and Attendance or Housebound Benefits: If you need help with everyday activities or are housebound, you might be eligible for additional assistance from your Veterans Pensions benefits. Burial in a VA National Cemetery: A military veteran can pre-plan their burial at a VA national cemetery by applying for a pre-need eligibility decision letter. Their next of kin may use this benefit if the veteran has passed. The National Cemetery Scheduling Office can help veterans and families secure required separation documents.
- Life Insurance: Veterans and their dependents can obtain additional financial security with VA life insurance. You can explore your insurance options and apply for a policy online on the VA website.
- Educational and Career Counseling: Active-duty military personnel and veterans may need educational and career counseling to ease their transition into civilian life. You can apply for this free service if you are leaving the military soon, have been discharged within the past year, or are a veteran or dependent eligible for education benefits.
- Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E): If you have a service-related disability that prevents you from working or limits your ability to work, you can apply for VR&E services to explore your employment options and receive support for your education and training needs. This service is available up to 12 years after receiving your first separation notice or VA disability rating.
Veterans can use their DD Form 214 as military or veteran identification for particular government and private organizations.
How Long Is the Response Time From The National Personnel Records Center?
Turnaround times for National Archives requests vary depending on the request’s complexity, the records’ availability, and the volume of current submissions. Avoid sending a follow-up request before 90 days, which may lead to further delays.
The NPRC may expedite the delivery of military service records under certain circumstances, such as a funeral or surgery. Indicate your request as urgent in the Comments section of the eVetRecs Form or the “Purpose” section of SF-180. The NPRC may respond to emergency requests in about 1 to 5 days.
If your request involves internment at a Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery, call the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at (800) 535-1117 to discuss your matter. Otherwise, you can fax the SF-180 or signature page from eVetRecs to the NPRC Customer Service Team.
Don’t forget to include the signature page and proof of death (e.g., death certificate, published obituary, a letter from the funeral home, etc.).
How Can You Check the Status of Your Request?
Allow the National Personnel Records Center enough time to receive and process your request. Afterward, you can check your status online on eVetRecs using your request number.
If you do not know your request number, use the Online Status Update Request form and provide the following information:
- The name, address, and phone number of the requester
- The veteran’s branch of service; this information can help staff find the request on the NPRC online system
You can also call the NPRC Customer Service Line at 314-801-0800. Peak calling times are weekdays between 10:00 AM CST and 3:00 PM CST. The customer service team takes calls between 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM CST.
Step-by-Step Instructions for Obtaining a DD Form 214
- We have summarized the steps of requesting a DD Form 214 and other military service records from the National Archives.
- Obtain all the necessary information from the service member. If they are still alive, you must have the authorization of the veteran or their next of kin to access their records. Otherwise, you must provide proof of death.
- Fill out a request online on eVetRecords or download and print a copy of SF-180. Include as much information as you can. If you need help filling out the form, call the NPRC customer service team.
- Photocopy the completed forms for your files.
- Submit your request online or mail the SF-180 to the NPRC. However, not all records are there. You can also send your request to the correction location based on your branch of service, date of separation, and record type.
- Look for the address on page 3 of SF-180.
- If your request is urgent, submit it online and select “Emergency Request” from the drop-down menu. Call the National Cemetery Scheduling Office if your request involves internment at a Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery.
- Wait for at least 90 days before submitting a follow-up request. Most customers receive their records within six to eight weeks.
Other Ways to Request Military Service Records
Although submitting your request online or via mail are the easiest ways to obtain records, there are other ways to do so, including:
- Writing a letter to the NPRC
- Contacting your state or county veterans agency
You may also come across companies that offer to acquire service records on your behalf. However, this service would otherwise be free if you do it yourself. Unless there is evidence (e.g., reviews or ratings from good sources) that the company can retrieve your documents faster, consider handling the process yourself to avoid making unnecessary expenses.
Also, remember that you will be sharing sensitive information if you hire someone else, including Social Security Numbers.
If you are helping your elderly family member request their records, remind them not to hand over personal information to anyone else or do the process yourself. Fraudulent companies often target elderly individuals, including veterans, in phishing scams.
The DD Form 214 is a formal document signifying a service member’s separation from active duty status. It includes the condition of the veteran’s discharge, total creditable service, military awards, and other pertinent information.
Most veterans need this form to access the many benefits that the VA provides, including disability compensation, housing assistance, and medical care.
Requesting military service records does not have to be complicated. If you are a retired service member or a veteran’s next of kin, follow the steps mentioned above to ensure the swift processing of your request.
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