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The DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, generally referred to as a "DD 214", is a document of the United States Department of Defense, issued upon a military service member's retirement, separation, or discharge from active-duty military.
The first DD Form 214s were issued in 1950, after replacing the older "WD AGO" (War Department Adjutant General) Forms and the NAVPERS (Naval Personnel) discharge documents. These documents, in turn, had existed since 1941. In earlier versions of the form (1 November 1972) it was called a "Report of Separation from Active Duty"; the current title dates from 1 July 1979.
DD Form 214 is the capstone military service document, as it represents the complete, verified record of a service member's time in the military, awards and medals, and other pertinent service information, such as promotions, combat service or overseas service, Military Occupational Specialty identifiers and record of training and schools completed.
DD Form 214 is commonly used by various government agencies, chief among them the Department of Veterans Affairs, to secure veteran benefits, and may be requested by employers should a person indicate he or she has served in the military.
This document also contains codes used by the Armed Forces to describe a former servicemember's reason for discharge and their reenlistment eligibility. These codes are known as Separation Designator/Separation Justification (abbreviated as SPD/SJC) Codes and Reenlistment Eligibility (RE) Codes, respectively.
DD Form 214 is also generally required by funeral directors in order to immediately prove eligibility for interment in VA cemetery and/or obtaining a grave marker and/or provide military honors to a deceased veteran. On September 1, 2000, the National Defense Authorization Act enabled, upon the family's request, every eligible veteran to receive a military funeral honors ceremony to include the folding and presentation of the United States burial flag and the sounding of Taps, at no cost to the family.
Copies of DD Form 214s are typically maintained by the government as part of a service member's 201 file or OMPF (Official Military Personnel File). The 201 file generally contains additional personnel related forms.
There are two versions of the DD Form 214, usually referred to simply as "short" (edited) and "long" (unedited) copies. The edited, or "short" copy omits a great deal of information, chiefly the characterization of service and reason for discharge, thus the unedited ("long") copy is generally desired by veterans' organizations, employers, and law enforcement agencies alike.
Service members are given the option of accepting the edited, unedited or both copies upon separation. The National Personnel Records Center is the government agency tasked with replacing lost and destroyed DD Form 214s upon request from a veteran. Requested copies are mailed from the Military Personnel Records Center.
The most important copy of the DD 214 for the individual is the "Member 4" copy. It is the standard form needed to obtain benefits such as GI Bill or government employment priority.
The "Service 2" copy contains information as to the nature and type of discharge, and the re-enlistment code. This code is used to determine whether or not the service member can go back into the service. For unemployment benefits, veterans affairs benefits, as well as for several other services, the "Member's Copy 4" is usually needed. An identical copy to the "Service 2", the "Member 4", is provided directly to the service member upon release from active duty. The military will not provide a replacement "Member's Copy 4" (it is the service member's personal copy) and any request for a replacement is always honored by providing a "Service 2" copy.
Other versions of the DD Form 214 include the "Member 1" (deleted version), "Service 7 & 8" (carbon copies of the "Service 2"), "Veterans Affairs 3" (sent directly to the Department of Veterans Affairs), and "Department of Labor 5" (provided directly to the United States Department of Labor).
Most veterans who separated from their service generally pre-1992 can obtain their DD 214 from the National Personnel Records Center, ("NPRC"). The NPRC has two distinct tracks available to obtain records for veterans. The first is for the veteran to submit a Department of Defense Standard Form 180 ("SF180") to the facility via mail or fax. The second is to appear in-person at the facility. The National Archives also maintains a list of independent researchers who will physically visit the St. Louis facility to request records in person.
The DD Form 215 ("Correction to DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty") is used to correct errors or additions to a DD Form 214 discovered after the original had been delivered and/or distribution had been made. It is distributed in the same manner as the DD Form 214.
A DD Form 214/215 is prepared in eight copies and distributed as follows: