The Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, DD Form 214, is the most important document for men and women who served in the United States Armed Forces. This document is issued by administrative personnel on a service member’s final day of active duty, and it provides documentary evidence of discharge, retirement or separation. In other words, DD-214s confirm veteran status.
Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF)
Although the U.S. military is known as a force that makes expeditious use of technology, this is not necessarily the case with OMPF archives. Over the last few years, there has been a push towards generating and keeping electronic OMPF records; however, men and women who leave active duty are still given an original DD-214 on paper.
The process of obtaining copies of OMPF records can be started online, but the copies will be delivered on paper. This means that requesting a copy of a DD-214 can be done on the Internet, but it will be delivered on paper. The eVetRecs system of the U.S. National Archives provides a Web interface for veterans and their next of kin to request OMPF documents, including DD-214 certificates. OMPF records of military members discharged prior to 1952 are part of the U.S. historical record and can be requested by anyone.
Private Record Search Agencies
Some private firms that specialize in retrieving records from the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) can locate a DD-214 on the same day it is requested. Many of these firms conduct their business online; requests and payments are made via Web forms, and a scanned PDF version of the DD-214 is delivered via secure download or by email.
Electronic Military Records
In the Afghanistan and Iraq War era, various branches of the U.S. military have expanded their efforts in becoming paperless organizations. To this effect, many service members are able to access their personnel records on the Internet. For example, a soldier discharged from the regular U.S. Army can transfer to the National Guard and keep his or her Army Knowledge Online (AKO) credentials to review their education, career and awards records. Further access to the Interactive Electronic Records Management System (IPERMS) will provide a glimpse into all the information contained in the DD-214, but it is important to remember that only the paper version can be used in an official capacity.