The DD Form 214, Discharge Papers and Separation Documents is the 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.
You will also need your DD 214 if you later wish to rejoin the military, take advantage of veterans preference points for civilian employment in a state or federal job, and more.
Because your DD Form 214 is so important, it is imperative you keep a copy of it in a safe place.
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.
Why the DD Form 214 is So Important
Your DD Form 214 is a one-page summary of your career. It includes:
- Personal Information, including name used while in the service, DOB, SSN
- Date and Place of Entry into Active Duty
- Home Address at Time of Entry (Home of Record)
- Date and Place of Release from Active Duty
- Home Address After Separation
- Last Duty Assignment
- Pay Grade and Rank at Time of Separation
- Military Job Specialty (MOS, AFSC, Rating, etc.)
- Military Education & Training (course title, duration, and month and year completed)
- Decorations, Medals, Badges, Citations and Campaign Awards Received
- Total Creditable Service (Years, Months, and Days)
- Foreign Service Credited
- Type of Separation & Separation Code
- Character of Service (Discharge type)
- Reentry Code (Determines whether or not you will be able to later rejoin the military)
- Reason for Separation from Service (such as completion of military service obligation, retirement, etc.).
All of these items can be used to help determine your eligibility for certain veterans benefits programs, determine your eligibility to join the military again, serve as proof of service for Veterans Preference Points, and much more.
Keep Your DD Form 214 Safe
You need to treat your DD 214 like any other important document, such as a birth certificate, marriage certificate, death certificate, passport, Social Security Card, etc. Keep your original copy in a lockbox, fireproof safe, safety deposit box, or another secure location.
I also recommend keeping a scanned copy on your hard drive or upload a copy to the cloud, for example in DropBox, Evernote, Google Drive, Microsoft Live, etc. This way you will always have access to a copy. (It’s rare that you need to provide the original copy; you can often supply a scanned, copied, or printed version).
How to Replace DD Form 214
Each member should receive a copy of their DD Form 214 on the day they separate from the military. Some veterans have reported that their DD 214 wasn’t ready on the date they separated, so your mileage may vary. If you are going to separate soon, do your best to obtain a copy on the date you separate from the military – this can save you a lot of hassle later on.
Note: This is not usually possible for members of the Guard or Reserves who are activated, then deactivated; it often takes some time to process and create your DD 214, especially if you are coming off of a mass deployment and the personnel section needs to process dozens of DD 214s at a time.
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.
Obtaining a DD Form 214 from your Branch of Service
If you separated within the last 10 years, try your branch of service personnel or Human Resources center first. If they don’t have it, or if it has been more than 10 years, then try the National Archives.
Contact your 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
Obtaining a DD Form 214 from the National Archives
If you need to obtain a copy of your Form DD 214 from the National Archives, you should contact them directly. It is free and easy to request a copy of your separation paperwork and other military records. There is no need to pay a company to do this on your behalf.
Note: The National Archives is the repository for all military service records. However, the National Archives Fire of 1973 resulted in the permanent loss of many pre-1973 military service records, including some veteran’s separation paperwork and other military service records. You can learn more here.
You can obtain a copy of your DD Form 214 Online or via Mail.
Request a DD 214 By Mail
Visit the following page on the National Archives website, download a copy of Military Personnel Records, SF-180, fill it out, then mail it to:
National Personnel Records Center
1 Archives Drive
St. Louis, Missouri 63138
You can also write a letter of request. Be sure to include the following information:
- The 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 may also be helpful, especially if the service number is not known
- If the request pertains to a record that may have been involved in the 1973 fire, also include:
- Place of discharge
- Last unit of assignment
- Place of entry into the service, if known.
How to Get Your DD Form 214 from the National Archives Web-Site
Step 1: Visit the eVetRecs website.
Step 2: Select Veteran, or Next of Kin of Deceased Veteran, and your relationship if you choose the latter.
Step 3: Provide service information, including Branch of Service, Component (Active, Guard, Reserves), Officer or Enlisted, Type of RecordsRequest, etc. For a copy of the DD Form 214, select, “Personal Military History.”
Step 4: Complete the personal information section, including Full Name, Date of Birth, Place of Birth, Social Security Number, Service Number (if applicable), approximate date veteran left active duty service,
Note: Not all of this information is required. However, the more information you input into the system the more likely the information requested will be correct.
Step 5: Enter your Return Address so the National Archives can send you the information.
Note: If you do not do Step 5 you will not receive your DD Form 214.
Step 6: verify your information is correct and submit. You should receive a copy of your DD Form 214 within 1-2 weeks. However, according to the National Archives, it can take up to 90 days based on the workload of the archives at the time of your request. (According to the National Archives, 92% of military records requests are completed within 10 business days).
Now that you have a copy of your DD Form 214 make sure you have plenty of copies stored in a safe place.
Who Can Request a Copy of the DD Form 214?
The only people who can request a copy of military service records are the veteran, surviving next of kin, or a legally authorized agent.
Next-of-kin is defined by the National Archives as a surviving spouse that has not remarried, father, mother, son, daughter, sister, or brother. In some cases, relatives of the deceased veteran who are not considered next of kin can still request a copy of the military service records. Contact the National Archives for more information regarding making a Next of Kin Records Request.
Note: Next-of-kin must usually provide some proof of death for the deceased veteran. This could include a copy of the death certificate, a letter from the funeral home, or published obituary.
How Long Will it Take to Obtain a Copy of My DD For 214?
The National Archives website states that they process 92% of records requests within 10 business days. You can also contact the National Archives if you need to place a rush order on your records request and they will try to move your request higher in the queue, if possible.
For more information, or to check on the status of your DD Form 214 request, contact the NPRC Customer Service Line: 1-314-801-0800. (not toll-free).
Remember, obtaining a copy of your DD Form 214 is free through the National Archives. You do not need to pay a company to do this on your behalf.