By Sophie Garrod
Contributor, In Military
If you’re a servicemember who is returning to civilian life, one of the critical administrative jobs you need to complete is obtaining a copy of your DD-214 (Certificate of Release or Discharge). What you probably don’t know, however, is how difficult it can be to access this document.
Most DD-214s are kept at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, where almost 100 million veterans’ records are stored. However, your file could be held at one of more than 100 other depositories.
This form is proof of your military service. You’ll need it for various civilian activities, including getting a job or a government-backed loan.
Background Checks for Civilian Employment
Employers routinely request a DD-214 to prove your military service and confirm your discharge status. This document is also needed for jobs requiring security clearances.
Finding employment can be one of the biggest challenges veterans face when returning home. Some companies prefer not to hire veterans because they fear that former servicemembers will be recalled to active duty.
Employers also believe that some veterans do not have the appropriate skills or training for the job. As a result, veterans often take courses to develop the skills they need. However, many of those courses also require submission of a DD-214.
Getting a Mortgage Requires a DD-214
If you return from active duty and want to buy your own home, you must have a DD-214 as part of the mortgage application process.
From the GI Bill to Veterans Administration (VA) home mortgage loans, from disability compensation to home improvement loans, the VA requires a DD-214 when you apply for benefits.
VA home loans can be used to build or purchase a home, townhouse or condominium; they can also be used to repair or adapt a home for personal occupancy. You do not have to be a first-time homebuyer to get a VA home loan and the benefit can be used more than once.
VA loans are also assumable, meaning that when you sell your home, a future buyer can assume your mortgage with the existing interest rate and terms. This is not the case with most conventional loans.
Before you can obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) for your VA home loan, you must provide the VA with a DD-214. VA home loans are an excellent way to finance a home because:
- No down payment is needed. This condition appeals to veterans because many of them have had little chance to set aside any considerable savings or build up their credit history.
- Competitive interest rates. Interest rates for VA home loans are about 0.5% to 1% lower than conventional home loans. That can add up to significant savings over time.
- More flexibility and leniency. With VA loans, lenders are more likely to overlook lower credit scores as well as any foreclosures or bankruptcies.
- No private mortgage insurance (PMI). Many conventional home loans require monthly PMI payments, unless the buyer can come up with at least 20% in cash at the time of sale. This is not the case with VA loans.
- Cap on closing costs. The VA caps the amount lenders can charge and allows sellers to pay the closing costs in full. This is not a VA requirement, so buyers might still be responsible for some of the closing costs (as well as any up-front earnest payment), but the amount is often considerably less than when you deal with a commercial loan company.
Military Funerals Also Require a DD-214 to Cover Some Expenses
If a family member dies while you are on active duty, the last thing you want to worry about is documentation. However, a DD-214 is essential to help organize and pay for the burial. Typically, funeral homes, crematoria and cemeteries will take care of most of the details when they are provided with a veteran’s DD-214.
In the U.S., the VA will pay up to $300 toward burial and funeral expenses ($762 if the deceased was in a VA hospital at the time of death). There is also a $762 plot-interment allowance if the deceased will not be buried in a national cemetery.
The VA also offers $300 toward burial for the cremated remains of eligible veterans, as well as an additional $300 for those who died in a VA facility ($2,000 more for those who died of a service-related injury or during active duty).
Such occasions may be the first time families realize the need for their veteran’s discharge papers. Any veteran who was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable is eligible for a military honors funeral, which includes the folding and presentation of the flag and the playing of “Taps.”
The VA’s National Cemetery Administration offers an array of burial benefits. A DD-214 is required to determine eligibility.
The U.S. Navy offers burials at sea for veterans, active-duty members and some family and civilians. The Burial at Sea Request package requires a copy of the DD-214.
How to Get Your DD-214 Form from NPRC
The standard way to receive a DD-214 is to request one through the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). Your request will take between several weeks and several months to process.
Tracking your request through the government is difficult and frustrating; expect long hold times and inconclusive answers. However, there is no charge for the service.
Obtaining Your DD-214 through DD214Direct
About the Author
Bio needed — 3-5 sentences of Sophie’s professional accomplishments – especially if she is an employee of Direct214.