The DD214 is an important document that summarizes your time in the military, as well as your awards and accomplishments. It serves many purposes, verifying your service for different aspects of your life, such as job applications, school admissions, accessing VA benefits, and more. Read on for our 7 key facts you may not know about your DD214.
- What is a DD214?
- 1. Your DD214 Has Many Uses
- 2. DD214s Are Currently Only Issued to Veterans Separating from Active Duty or the Reserves, but this is Changing
- 3. What Information is on your DD214?
- 4. How to Get a Copy of DD214
- 5. DD214s Are Important For Family Members Too
- 6. It Takes Time to Get Your DD214
- 7. Double Check Your DD214 Before You Separate or Retire
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What is a DD214?
It’s crucial that as a veteran, you have a copy of your DD214. The full name for a DD214 is “DD Form 214 Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty”. You could see this form written as DD214, DD Form 214, or DD-214.
Your DD214 is how the VA verifies your active duty military service. You’ll need your DD214 to apply for a veteran ID card. When applying for VA disability benefits, you’ll need to provide a copy of your DD214. However, this form acts as proof of your service to various organizations and institutions.
Why is a DD214 important?
This form documents your military service and allows you to access various benefits and services after you leave service. Issued by the Department of Defense, your DD214 confirms important information, such as your discharge status and length of service. It also confirms your honors, awards, and other important information.
Above all, your DD214 proves to employers, schools, or any other organization that you served in the military. Here are seven things veterans should know about DD214.
1. Your DD214 Has Many Uses
Your DD214 serves many purposes beyond employment and school admissions. You can also use it to apply for VA benefits, including:
- GI Bill and other education benefits
- VA healthcare
- VA disability compensation
- State property tax exemptions
- VA-backed mortgages and home loans
- Federal and state hiring preference
- Veteran-owned business benefits
- Many other state-specific benefits
Your DD214 will also enable you to get your veteran ID card, which can be used to access military installations and other government facilities. You can apply for this card regardless of your disability rating or even if you’re a veteran who didn’t retire from service.
2. DD214s Are Currently Only Issued to Veterans Separating from Active Duty or the Reserves, but this is Changing
If you served in the Army National Guard or Air National Guard, don’t expect to receive a DD214 right now. Instead, you’ll likely be issued an “NGB Form 22 Report of Separation and Military Service” form unless you served on Active Duty for 90 days or more.
However, the military is transitioning to issuing all service men and women a DD214 (including the Army and Air National Guard), with the goal of completing this switch by 2025.
3. What Information is on your DD214?
Your DD214 contains a lot of important information about your military service. It includes details such as:
- Where and when you entered active duty
- Your home address when you entered service
- Where and when you were released from active duty
- Your home address after separation
- Your final duty assignment and rank
- Your job in the military
- Any military education you received
- All decorations, medals, badges, citations, and campaign awards
- Total creditable service
- Foreign service credited (explain)
- Separation information
The separation information provided is perhaps one of the most important sections on your DD214, as you must meet specific requirements in order to qualify for many veterans benefits.
Within the separation information, you’ll find:
- Type of separation
- How the military characterizes your service – “character of service”
- Who authorized your separation
- The reason for your separation
- Reenlistment eligibility codes (if applicable)
All this information is necessary for documentation purposes when applying for VA benefits and other programs.
Character of Service
Within your DD214, line 24 is “character of service.” This is a critical area of your DD214 when it comes to your benefits.
DD214 character of service could be one of the six following options:
- General (Under Honorable Conditions)
- Other than Honorable (OTH) Conditions
- Bad Conduct
An honorable discharge will ensure you’re eligible for most benefits. You can learn more about upgrading your not honorable discharge to receive benefits by reading our post on this topic.
4. How to Get a Copy of DD214
The simplest way to get a copy of your DD214 is to download and print your DD214 at home. A DD214 printed at home will be accepted at federal and state agencies. However, you can get a physical copy mailed to you if you choose that option instead.
You can get a copy of your DD214 online free of charge. We’ve written a detailed guide to how to get your DD 214 online. The easiest way to get a copy of your DD214 is to apply online through the MilConnect or eBenefits website.
You can get your DD214 copy by:
- Mailing or faxing a Standard Form SF180 to the National Personnel Records Center
- Writing a letter to the National Personnel Records Center
- Visiting the National Personnel Records Center in person
- Contacting your local state or county Veterans agency
- Hiring an independent researcher
5. DD214s Are Important For Family Members Too
DD214s don’t just benefit veterans, but their family members too! They can be used to prove a veteran’s service when applying for VA death benefits, such as Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). DD214s can also be used to access military installations and other government facilities.
How to Request a Family Member’s DD214
If you’re a veteran’s caregiver or they’ve passed away, there are several ways to request their DD214. To be considered family, you must be a surviving spouse who hasn’t remarried, a parent, a child, or a sibling.
To request your family member’s DD214, you can use the same methods listed above to request a veteran’s military records, other than filing online. You’ll need to provide a death certificate if you’re requesting the DD214 for a veteran who has passed away.
6. It Takes Time to Get Your DD214
Many veterans want to know how long it takes to get your DD214.
Your DD214 can take some time to obtain, depending on the circumstances. Your discharge status impacts this timeline. Plan ahead if you will need your DD214 for employment or school admissions.
In general, once you’re out of the service, this process takes three to four weeks to get a copy of your DD214 after you make the initial request.
7. Double Check Your DD214 Before You Separate or Retire
Before you separate or retire from active duty, you’ll complete your DD214. Be careful and check your entries when filling this out. While it is possible to correct errors you make on the form after the fact, you’ll have to deal with additional paperwork and wait times.
You’ll complete and verify the following:
- Personal information
- Information on where you entered the service
- Where were you stationed when leaving service
- If you have Servicemember’s Group Life Insurance (SGLI)
- The history of your military service records
- Your dates of service
- Awards and education
- Accrued paid leave
- Mailing address after separation
- Your signature
What’s the difference between a DD214 and a DD215?
A DD214 is a certificate of discharge or separation from active duty given to veterans, while a DD215 is a document that corrects errors on a DD214. The DD214 is issued to service members upon their separation from active duty. It’s an important document for veterans to receive benefits and prove their service history.
If you realize any errors on your DD214, corrections will be issued back to you using DD Form 215. A DD215 is issued to correct errors on the DD214, such as misspelled names, incorrect character of service, or other errors that may have been made on the original document.
YOU SERVED. YOU DESERVE!
Your DD214 is an important tool you’ll use to verify your honorable service for the remainder of your life. Make sure you take full advantage of all the benefits you rightfully earned and obtain a copy of your DD214. After all, you served; you deserve!
NEED MORE ASSISTANCE?
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Our process takes the guesswork out of filing a VA disability claim and supports you every step of the way in building a fully-developed claim (FDC)—so you can increase your rating FAST! If you’ve filed your VA disability claim and have been denied or have received a low rating—or you’re unsure how to get started—reach out to us! Take advantage of a FREE VA Claim Discovery Call. Learn what you’ve been missing—so you can FINALLY get the disability rating and compensation YOU DESERVE!
Trisha Penrod is a former active-duty Air Force officer. As an Intelligence Officer, she led teams of analysts to apply advanced analytic skills to identify, assess, and report potential threats to U.S. forces.
Trisha attended the U.S. Air Force Academy and holds an MBA from Webster University. After receiving an honorable discharge in 2018, Trisha worked as a growth marketer and utilizes her analytic skills to help others accomplish their business goals.