Form DD-214 contains separation/discharge information which can be used by employers for screening veterans, determining eligibility of VA benefits and reenlistment. Here are the seven blocks (box 23-29) that make up the character of discharge on the long or undeleted DD-214 form.
Form DD-214 Character of Discharge Section
|SPECIAL ADDITIONAL INFORMATION (For use by authorized agencies only)|
|23. TYPE OF SEPARATION||24. CHARACTER OF SERVICE (Include upgrades)|
|25. SEPARATION AUTHORITY||26. SEPARATION CODE||27. REENTRY CODE|
|28. NARRATIVE REASON FOR SEPARATION|
|29. DATES OF TIME LOST DURING THIS PERIOD (YYYYMMDD)||MEMBER REQUESTS COPY4
Note: The short or deleted dd214 form does not contain this section which is the bottom 1.5 inches of the long form DD214. Any employer who is familiar with DD214 will almost always request the undeleted report of separation (the long form). Find out how to get a copy of the long or short form DD214.
7 Characters of Separation/Discharge
#23: Type of Separation. This entry depends on the Character of Service (24). If block 24 is anything other than Honorable you will typically see “Discharge” or “Discharged”. Other examples include Retirement/Resume Retirement, Discharge, Release from Active Duty or Death. If member was Guard/Reserve and on AD for training you will see “Release from active duty training” or “Release from IADT” or “Released from active duty.”
#24: Character of Service. The “Character of your service” determines your eligibility for VA Benefits. There are 6 types of “discharge of character” listed on military discharges: (1)”Honorable” or “Under honorable conditions”, (2) “General under Honorable Conditions”, (3) “Other than Honorable” (OTH), (4) “Bad Conduct” (BCD), (5) “Dishonorable” (DD), (6) “Entry Level (ELS) or Non-Characterized ” The DD 214 must have a Service Characterization of anything other than dishonorable to be considered a veteran.
#25: Separation Authority. Cites regulations justifying the separation which are tied to branch of service. Example. Army Regulation 600-8-24, Paragraph 2-25A.
#26: Separation Code. This coincides with section #28 (Narrative Reason for Separation) and typically refers to the expiration of a veteran’s term of service, but other reasons include pregnancy, parenthood, disability, hardship and early release to attend school. The separation codes are used in conjunction with blocks 23, 24, and 28. These codes are intended for Department of Defense (DOD) internal use. The DoD no longer releases the definition of these codes however many of the codes have been previously released and are widely accessible by prospective employers. See the Separation Codes and Separation Program Numbers that have been previously released.
#27: RE Code. Enlisted eligibility for reentry, otherwise N/A. See the reenlistment codes for each branch of service.
#28: Narrative Reason for Separation. This coincides with section #26 (Separation Code) and typically refers to the expiration of a veteran’s term of service, but other reasons include pregnancy, parenthood, disability, hardship and early release to attend school.
#29: Dates of Time Lost During This Period. Many will say “None.” Other information would apply to issues such as time absent without leave (AWOL).
#30: MEMBER REQUESTS COPY 4. At the time of separation a service member can request Member 4 version of DD Form 214 which will include blocks 23-30. It is important for service members to request this copy and retain in a secure place. If lost or not requested service members can order a Service 2 Copy which is the same as the Member 4 Copy. A Member 4 Copy cannot be replaced as that copy is typically not saved anywhere.
Eligibility for many VA benefits, including disability compensation and NSC pension, require that you separated from active service with an honorable discharge. Additionally, most individuals and employers want to see an Honorable Discharge indicated in line 24’s Character of Service in the DD 214. This type of discharge also is key to being eligible for a host of veteran’s benefits provided by federal, state and sometimes even local governments. These benefits include, but are not limited to, educational grants and loans, home grants and loans, business loans, and job preference benefits.
Disputing Your Character of Discharge
A less than honorable discharge may result in being barred from benefits or denied for employment. The Departments of the Army, Air Force, and Navy (which includes the Marine Corps), and the Coast Guard each have their own discharge review boards (DRB). The DRBs have the authority to modify or correct any discharge or dismissal from the service, unless it was the result of a general court martial. DRBs, however, have no jurisdiction over medical discharges. If you believe that your character of discharge (e.g., dishonorable, other than honorable, general) was made in error, you may request a discharge review using DD Form 293 (“Application for Review of Discharge or Separation from the Armed Forces of the United States/Application for the Review of Discharge or Dismissal from the Armed Forces of the United States”).
Apply for a Discharge Upgrade
All branches of the military consider you to have a strong case for a discharge upgrade if you can show your discharge was connected to mental health conditions, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), sexual assault or harassment during military service, sexual orientation (including under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy).
Find out how to get a copy of a DD214.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News