How to Correct Your DD-214
Your DD-214, or Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, is the document you receive when you separate that summarizes your entire military career. Since it’s the key to so many of the benefits you’ve earned as a result of your service, it’s important to make sure it’s accurate. Of course, it’s best to make sure it’s right the first time, as we discuss here, but sometimes that doesn’t happen.
As we all know, it’s a complicated world out there, and over the past couple decades, that’s meant a busy military. Maybe your last duty station was remote, many miles and time zones from the personnel office processing your separation or retirement. Perhaps your last unit was in the middle of deploying or redeploying, and things just fell through the cracks. Selected Reservists will have multiple DD-214s, one for every time they’ve been mobilized and demobilized (one friend of mine has five), and it’s possible that between all those different forms, something got missed.
Regardless of how it happened, it’s not uncommon for a veteran to find out that something is incorrect or missing from his or her form. Depending on what the inaccurate or omitted information is, it could keep you from taking advantage of some or all of your benefits. But how do you fix it?
One More Form
As long as you’re not trying to change the characterization of your discharge, the first step in correcting a DD-214 that’s already been signed and issued is to fill out a DD-149, Application for Correction of Military Record. Fortunately, you can find the form online. In addition to filling out the form, you’ll need to provide documentation to support your request. For example, if your 214 is missing an award, you’d send a copy of the award citation or something showing you’ve earned a campaign medal.
Each service handles its own records correction process, so once you’ve filled out the form and collected your supporting documentation, send it to the appropriate address listed on the back of the DD-149. Then, you wait. If everything is in order, you’ll receive a DD-215 listing the correction, which you attach to your DD-214. Just like your original discharge paperwork, be sure to keep it in a safe place. You might even want to make a few extra copies, just in case.
You should start the correction process as soon as you notice the discrepancy. Generally, the military requires you to request changes within three years of discovering the error. After that, the onus is on you to convince your branch of service why they should consider your request.
Another reason to take prompt action is that the process isn’t a quick one. Another friend of mine needed to add an award and time deployed to a combat zone to his DD-214, and it took a couple of months after sending in his paperwork to hear back from the Army’s Review Boards Agency. If you need your record fixed for a VA loan or to establish Veteran’s Preference for a job application, the time it takes for the change to take effect could be problematic. Taking action as soon as you notice an issue makes it more likely that your record will be fixed and ready when you need it.
Where to Go for Help
Although the form you need to submit is reasonably straightforward, you don’t have to go it alone. The Department of Veterans Affairs trains and accredits Veteran Service Officers (VSOs) to help veterans, their families, and their survivors. They are an excellent resource for learning more about state and federal benefits as well as your military records. You can find them at veterans’ organizations like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, and you don’t need to be a member for them to help you. In most cases, their services are free. States and territories, and in some cases even counties and municipalities, also have VSOs. You can find help locating them here and here.
Whether you get your record corrected by yourself or get some help, it’s important to get it done promptly. You’ve earned your benefits, so don’t let an administrative oversight keep you from taking advantage of them!
The author wishes to thank friends and fellow veterans Chris Adams and Jeff Woods for their valuable insight.