When you leave the military, you need your DD214 to apply for veterans benefits.
Many veterans keep separation papers with other important documents, such as birth certificates and Social Security cards. Sometimes important papers are lost in the shuffle of a move, damaged from a flood or fire, or just can’t be found when you need them most.
In this article, we’ll describe how to request your DD214.
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In this article about the DD214
- What is a DD214?
- Why does the VA need my separation papers?
- How do I request a copy of my DD214?
- Can I request someone else’s DD214?
- When will I receive my DD214?
- How to fix an error on a DD214
- Call Woods and Woods
What is a DD214?
DD Form 214, or DD214, is an official document that verifies military service. It is officially called the Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, but most veterans refer to it as their separation or discharge papers. Currently, the Army and Air National Guards use a different form number and name: NGB Form 22 Report of Separation and Military Service. However, the military plans to replace the form with a new standardized form called the DD Form 214-1 by 2025.
A service member’s discharge papers list the date and place of entry into active duty and release from active duty. It also includes:
- Home address at time of entry and after separation
- Last duty assignment and rank
- Military job specialty
- Military education
- Decorations, medals, badges, citations and campaign awards received
- Total creditable service
- Foreign service credited
- Separation information (date and type of separation, character of service, authority and reason for separation and separation and reenlistment eligibility codes)
Why does the VA need my separation papers?
The simplest answer is that if you ever need VA benefits of any kind, the first document you will need is your DD214.
Without your discharge papers, you can’t get a veteran ID card or apply for a VA home loan, and you will not be able to receive disability benefits, health benefits, or retirement. The document is also something your family will need in the unfortunate event of your death. It will provide them with access to survivor benefits that will help pay for your funeral expenses and military burial rites. These are just a few of the VA benefits that require the DD214 to apply.
At this point, you might be asking, “Why doesn’t the VA already have access to my DD214?” The challenge is that you are now working with two federal agencies. When you were enlisted, your information was held by the Department of Defense (DoD). As a veteran, you require the services of the Department of Veterans Affairs. So if you want one agency (in this case the DoD) to send the other agency (the VA) a document, you will need to–you guessed it–fill out a form to request it.
One of the first tasks for veterans filing for VA benefits is to prove that they served in the military. When you begin the process of applying for VA benefits, it is your responsibility to ask the Defense Department to give you a document stating where and when you served.
How do I request a copy of my DD214?
If you need to request a military service record, including a replacement copy of your separation papers, you have several options. It is not clear if one method is faster than another. Each has been affected by staffing and U.S. Postal Service issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This self-service website gives you access to your military records which are kept in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS)
If this is your first time accessing this website, you will need to create a new account. It will take about 10 minutes to register, and you will need access to your phone (landline or mobile) to receive a verification PIN. Once you begin your registration, the site will ask if you consent to a “soft inquiry” on your credit reports, which authorizes a simple check of your credit report and will not impact your credit score.
If you already have an account (or once you have completed the registration), follow these steps for a DD214 request:
- Sign into milConnect
- Choose Correspondence/Documentation
- Choose Defense Personnel Records Information (DPRIS) from the menu
- Choose Request My Personnel File
- Fill out the form (In the Document Index section, select DD214 and any other forms you would like to request)
- Once you’ve completed the form, choose Create and Send Request
Use the National Archives request form
Request your documents from the National Personnel Records Center through the National Archives website. You also will need to be connected to a printer to print the final page which will be for your signature.
Go to the website. Select the “Start Request Online” button. A new window will open a tool called eVetRecs where you can enter the information you are requesting.
Request by mail
If you choose not to use milConnect, you can download Form SF 180, complete it, and mail it to National Personnel Record Center, 1 Archives Drive, St. Louis, MO 63138.
Contact a Veterans Affairs office
Contact your state or county Veterans Affairs agency.
Here is a list of state Veterans Affairs offices. You can also find a veterans services office in your county by searching this database from the National Association of County Veterans Service Officers. You can select your state from the map or scroll down and use the search boxes to search for your city or county.
Can I request someone else’s DD214?
You can request a veteran’s discharge papers if the veteran has died and you are the veteran’s parent, child, sibling, or surviving spouse who hasn’t remarried. If those circumstances apply to you, you can request the DD214 through the mail or by contacting your state or county veterans agency.
Anyone, including non-relatives, can request a copy of discharge papers and other military records of veterans who were discharged more than 62 years ago. You may access limited information from the military personnel file of a veteran discharged less than 62 years ago.
Those requests can be made through the National Archives website.
When will I receive my DD214?
You should receive your discharge papers when you separate or retire from service. If you request a replacement DD214 through the National Archives, give it at least 10 days before you check the status of your request.
The fulfillment of requests slowed down significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of this article’s publication, the NPRC was operating at 45% of its pre-pandemic staffing levels.
How to fix an error on a DD214
If your DD214 has a mistake, such as the incorrect name, wrong date of birth, or transposed digits in a Social Security number, it can be fixed. NPRC is allowed to correct clerical errors and can even add retroactive service awards on your discharge form. The mistake will usually be fixed by issuing a different form, DD Form 215, rather than issuing a new DD214.
The NPRC is not authorized to make substantial changes to a DD214. The following changes can not be made using a DD215:
- Character of service
- Reason for separation
- Separation authority
- Separation code
- Narrative reason for discharge
- Dates of time lost
- Reenlistment code
- Social security number, if it differs from your military record (unless the error is only transposed digits)
- Significant changes to your name, if it differs from the one shown in the military record
- Any correction that is not clearly documented in the record or is controversial in nature
If you are requesting changes to any of the information above, you must make the request with the military service department that created the record. For example, if you served in the Army, you would mail a written request for a DD215 to the Army Human Resources at Fort Knox.
Call Woods and Woods
Before a VA-certified disability attorney agrees to represent you, you will need to provide the proper supporting paperwork. That’s why it’s so important to have a DD214 when seeking legal assistance with your VA disability benefits application or appeal.
If you are just getting started with your VA disability benefits claim, we invite you to contact us for a free claims evaluation. We won’t charge you expenses or fees unless we win your claim.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
DD214 is an official document that verifies military service. It is officially called or DD Form 214 Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty. The Army and Air National Guards use a different form number and name: NGB Form 22 Report of Separation and Military Service. Most veterans refer to these documents as their separation or discharge papers.
You can request a veteran’s discharge papers if the veteran has died and you are the veteran’s parent, child, sibling, or surviving spouse who hasn’t remarried.