Military Discharge Form DD214: How to Claim Veterans Benefits

Table of Contents

  1. What is the DD214?
  2. Receipt of the DD214: Who Gets One, Who Doesn’t, and When
  3. What’s the Point of the DD214?
  4. DD Form 214 and Veteran Funeral, Cremation, and Burial Benefits
  5. Requesting a DD214 Form: The Process and How Long it Takes
  6. Avoiding DD214 Scams
  7. Correcting a DD214 Form Regarding Military Service
  8. The DD214: A Vital Document for Those Discharged from the Military

The DD214 form is an important document for veterans and their families when it comes to leveraging benefits associated with military service, including funeral-related benefits. This article provides everything vets and family members need to know about the DD214, particularly in conjunction with funeral or burial benefits.

What Is the DD214?

The DD214 is formally called the DD Form 214. Since January 1, 1950, the Department of Defense has issued these forms to veterans upon discharge. If there are certain actions you’d like to take regarding your military history, it is likely that you’ll need this form. The form acts to record that the vet was officially discharged from his or her service, and it also records the manner in which the discharge occurred. Types of discharge include:

  • Honorable
  • Dishonorable
  • General
  • Other than honorable

The only type of discharge that will disqualify you from VA burial benefits is a dishonorable discharge. If you are discharged “other than honorable,” you still have a right to benefits, making the type of discharge very important.

What Information is on the DD214 Form?

The form is also sometimes referred to as the Report of Separation, as it documents the military personnel’s separation from active duty status. In addition to discharge situation, the report might include information such as: 

 

  • When and where the veteran entered active duty service
  • When and where the veteran left active duty service
  • The vet’s home addresses both when joining the service and departing from it
  • The vet’s last rank and/or assignment
  • Service credited to the veteran, both domestic and foreign
  • Job specialties, education, decorations, awards, and citations related to military service

Long vs. Short DD214 Discharge Forms

One important note about the DD214 is that the government issues two versions of the form:

The difference between the two is that the long form contains information about the service member’s discharge. That could include a narrative about the situation surrounding the discharge and a “grade” that rates the discharge in a positive or negative light. Employers, government agencies working with vets and benefits organizations often ask for the long form because discharge status is relevant to the decision at hand. When seeking funeral benefits for a vet, it’s a good idea to have a copy of the long form.

Receipt of the DD214: Who Gets One, Who Doesn’t, and When

Every veteran is supposed to receive both a short and long copy of their form when they are discharged from the military. Copies of the form are also sent to federal and state agencies, including the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. The original copy of the form is typically housed with the military branch for which the veteran served temporarily. After a certain amount of time, it’s moved to a permanent federal archive.

Not every person associated with military service will have a DD214. If you’re in the active or inactive reserves, you are technically not fully separated from your service. The same is true for anyone in the National Guard or those who haven’t completed their service or been formerly discharged.

How do I get my DD214 after being discharged?

When you are discharged officially, the office from which you are discharged will either provide your form to you personally or arrange to have it mailed to you.

What’s the Point of a DD Form 214?

The DD214 form serves a purpose other than formalizing the end of your military career on paper. It’s also a necessary document if you want to take certain actions based on your military history. Some situations that might call for presentation of the form include, but aren’t limited to:

Seeking Employment

Your future employers might want to know about the status related to your military discharge. Certain government employers and private contractors for government agencies may not be able to hire someone who was dishonorably discharged, for example. Even in the private sector, your DD214 proves you are a veteran, letting you apply with companies looking to support or hire vets.

Reenlisting in the Military

If you ever want to return to military service, your DD214 form is your best recommendation. It’s what tells the military if you are able to be rehired; certain statuses on the form do mean you can’t reenlist.

Seeking VA Benefits

The Department of Veteran Affairs provides a number of benefits for former military service members, including assistance in purchasing new homes and medical care. Whether or not you qualify for these benefits depends in part on your discharge status, which the DD214 can confirm.

Funeral, Burial, and Cremation Benefits for Vets

The VA also provides certain funeral benefits and reimbursement programs for partial funeral and burial expenses. The DD214 and an appropriate discharge status is required for these benefits as well.

DD Form 214 and Veteran Funeral, Cremation, and Burial Benefits

The VA provides a number of funeral benefits for vets, but you need the DD214 to access them. In some cases, you might need to expedite a copy of the form to receive the benefits in time, though it’s still possible you could wait six to eight weeks. One way around the issue is to work with your provider to schedule a memorial service following a cremation or burial. Memorial services are less time-sensitive, allowing families to include appropriate vet-related benefits in a service after the form is received.

In some cases, vets might have an equivalent form that provides the same information as the DD214. This is especially true for service members who were discharged before 1950; even after 1950, other forms were in circulation that detailed discharge status and military service, such as the War Department Adjutant General Office Form 53-55.

If you’re planning ahead for end-of-life matters and you haven’t been discharged from the military yet, you obviously won’t have a DD214. You can provide a copy of your military ID or other proof that you are active-duty military to the funeral provider you’re working with.

Who Is Eligible for VA Military Cremation and Burial Benefits?

You are eligible for the benefits as long as your DD214 reflects any discharge status other than dishonorable. The funeral and burial reimbursement benefit also comes with some requirements, such as being eligible for VA pension payments, or passing away in a VA hospital. Those conditions are listed in detail by the VA.

Requesting a DD214 Form: The Process and How Long It Takes

DD214 forms should be treated like Social Security cards or birth certificates. For example, it’s a good idea to keep it in a fireproof safe or filing cabinet along with your other sensitive personal documents. Paperwork does get misplaced, damaged, or destroyed, however, which is why the National Personnel Records Center will provide replacement forms. 

You can request a copy of your own DD214 form online via the National Archives. The next of kin for a deceased vet can also use the online system to request the form; the government considers next of kin to be an unmarried surviving spouse, parent, child, or sibling of the deceased. You can also send a request via mail or fax by completing the SF-180 form to request military records.

However you request the form, the NPRC will need certain information to find the correct record. The information it requires includes:

  • The veteran’s complete name, service number, date of birth, place of birth, and Social Security number
  • The branch the vet served with
  • Dates of service

The request must also be signed by the vet or his or her next of kin.

It’s free to request a DD214 copy be returned to you via mail, fax, or the online portal. You can also pay a service to go to the NPRC to conduct the research immediately, which can speed up the process. If you plan to use such a service, check out the section below on avoiding retrieval scams. Most people who request the document themselves receive it in approximately six to eight weeks.

Reasons for Delays in Receiving a DD214

In some cases, receipt of a DD214 copy can be delayed, even if you pay for a research service. A common delay is associated with a fire that occurred in 1973. That fire destroyed many records associated with Airforce and Army vets, and the loss of those records can make getting a copy of your form more difficult. The National Archives recommends that you provide additional information, including last unit of assignment, place of discharge and where you entered the service, if you believe your records might have been compromised by that fire.

Another common reason for delay is that the vet never registered with the VA. That means that the records might not be on file with the VA and federal employees may have to search other locations. If you were recently discharged from the military and you apply in the wrong location, you might have to reapply for a copy of your DD214.

Emergency Needs

The government does realize that some DD214 requests may be more time-sensitive than others, and you can let the agencies know about deadlines or urgent reasons for your request in the comments section on the request form. For example, the NPRC will try to prioritize requests for DD214 related to funeral arrangements.

Important Numbers to Know:

  • Fax your DD214 request (via Standard Form 180) to 314-801-0764 if you have an urgent request
  • Call the customer service team at 314-801-0800 for answers to questions or possible same-day service

Avoiding DD214 Scams

Research groups and firms — both legitimate and otherwise — claim that they can retrieve your DD214 copy faster than you can through the standard process. It’s tempting for families that want closure or need to finalize funeral arrangements or estate finance matters to buy into this claim. However, some of these organizations simply take your money and complete the exact same process you would.

Before you pay an organization to retrieve your form, make sure you’re paying for something you can’t do yourself. Look at ratings and reviews regarding the company on sites like the Better Business Bureau. If you don’t see evidence that the company can do something more, such as go in person to the NPRC in St. Louis, MO, then consider handling the matter yourself.

Remember, you should always think twice about dealing with any online service that requests your personal information. To request a copy of your form, you have to hand over a lot of sensitive information.

Correcting a DD214 Form Regarding Military Service

In some cases, the information on your DD214 form may be incorrect. If errors are general and clerical in nature — a name is spelled wrong, some numbers are transposed — you can ask for a correction to the document. The government issues a corrected form, which is called the DD215. That document is exactly the same as the DD214 other than the corrections, and you can use it in the same way you use the DD214.

If you want to seek a change of your dishonorable discharge status on your DD214, then you will have to appeal it. It’s fairly rare to win such an appeal, but if you were dishonorably discharged in the past because of homosexuality, you may have a good chance of winning an appeal today. In some cases, if a veteran has changed substantially since being dishonorably discharged, he or she can request a Character of Service Determination. This can shed a more positive light on the discharge, but it doesn’t necessarily change any access you might have to benefits.

The DD214 used to include an SPN number. This was a code that reflected the nature of a discharge, and they were often subjective in nature. While they don’t impact VA benefit status at all, employers and others might make decisions based on those codes. You can apply to have the SPN number removed via the same channels you would request a new form.

The DD214: A Vital Document for Those Discharged from the Military

The DD214 is a vital document and should be treated with the same care Social Security cards, marriage licenses, and birth certificates are. If you do lose your DD214, a copy can be requested. Since the form is so critical in accessing benefits, it’s a good idea to check now: do you have the form? If not, consider requesting it now before it becomes an emergency for yourself or your loved ones.

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Published | Category: Resources.