Regardless of length of service, members of all United States military branches are provided a document when they’re discharged: DD Form 214.
Commonly referred to as DD-214, the document is fundamentally a veteran’s official proof of service. The full name of the form is “DD Form 214 Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty.” The “DD” in its name stands for Department of Defense, and all military branches use the same version.
Among the information on a DD-214 is the identification of the veteran’s condition of discharge: Honorable, general, other than honorable, dishonorable or bad conduct.
The document can be very important to a veteran or his or her family members because it contains information for verification of military service necessary for various types of benefits, including retirement programs, tax exemptions, education, hiring preferences and membership in veterans organizations. It’s also needed to ensure the inclusion of military honors at funerals, and it allows access to various services provided by the Veterans Administration (VA), including healthcare, mortgages and home loans.
The DD-214 also allows for the acquisition of a Veteran ID card, which can be used to access military installations and other government facilities.
Knowing the importance of the DD-214, officers with American Legion Post 41 in Houston want to raise the awareness of how crucial it can be to simply know where the form is.
“It’s your proof,” said Post Commander Bob Joens. “You can tell all the stories you want, but you need this. We know of some veterans who have died and their family members don’t know where their DD-214 is.
“I figure most of our members know where theirs is, but there are some who don’t.”
“It proves you had military service,” said Post First Vice-Commander Bob Simpson, “and it can be the only way to get certain benefits. This form is especially important to the VA.”
Information shown on the DD-214 may include a service member’s:
•Date and place of entry into active duty.
•Home address at time of entry.
•Date and place of release from active duty.
•Home address after separation.
•Last duty assignment and rank.
•Military job specialty.
•Decorations, medals, badges, citations and campaign awards.
•Total creditable service.
•Foreign service credited.
•Separation information (type of separation, character of service, authority and reason for separation, separation and reenlistment eligibility codes).
If a DD-214 is lost, there are ways to obtain a replacement, through both online sources and various firms and agencies.
“When you think of how many people have been divorced or moved several times,” Joens said, “these things are sometimes going to disappear.”
Depending on the chosen method, getting a replacement can take a matter of days to several weeks.
It’s possible for a person who enlisted more than once to have more than one DD-214, but the one that really matters is the last, because it shows information about every period of duty.
FIND OUT MORE
More information about the DD-214 can be found online on several websites, including dd214.us, defense.gov and vaclaimsinsider.com.
Multiple sources of information are also available locally:
•Post 41 member Ron Jones, who is also commander of American Legion Post 559 in Licking and curator of the Texas County Historical and Military Museum, is knowledgeable on the subject and can be contacted at the museum from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursdays, at the Houston Senior Center from 9 to 11 a.m. on Mondays. Both facilities are on Grand Avenue in downtown Houston. Jones can also be reached by phone at 405-618-6779.
•A VA representative is available at the Texas County Administrative Building (also on Grand Avenue in downtown Houston) during the mornings of the first and third Thursdays of each month.
For information about military cemeteries, call Post 41 Service Officer Glen McKinney at 417-967-7119 or 417-260-2231.