There may be times that an individual for whatever reason may need to acquire military records for say the death of a family member or to confirm the background of a particular individual. Whatever the reason, today I'm going to cover how to retrieve a certificate of discharge also known as a DD-214. This is the sheet of paper that every veteran gets upon discharge from the military that outlines everything about their military service. Such as the rank they held, their awards, deployments, type of discharge (honorable), and various codes that explain different details such as medical discharge, dishonorable, etc.
You will first need to contact the Office of Military Personnel Files or OMPF to get information to recover this document.
Link to Archives.gov page here.
Office of Military Personnel Files
1 Archives Drive,
St. Louis MO 63138.
Main line 314 801 0800.
Fax 314 801 9195.
If your the veteran or a next of kin, you can retrieve these records pretty quickly and can even request them online. In emergency circumstances, you can expect to see records within 5 days as per the archives.gov website.
Access to Military Records by the General Public
Limited information from Official Military Personnel Files is releasable to the general public without the consent of the veteran or the next-of-kin. You are considered a member of the general public if you are asking about a veteran who is no relation to you, or a veteran who is a relative but you are not the next-of-kin. Next-of-kin is defined as the unremarried widow or widower, son or daughter, father or mother, brother or sister of the deceased veteran.
See Access to Military Records by the General Public and Researchers for details on how to request service records.
Here is a link that outlines the instructions and laws to requesting military records to the general public.
As you can imagine, getting documents from this system will take some time and in some instances 3-6 months. Information to the general public may also be less detailed then that of what the veteran could pull themselves.
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
The Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA (5 U.S.C. 552, as amended), generally provides any person with the statutory right, enforceable in court, to obtain access to Government information in executive branch agency records. This right to access is limited when such information is protected from disclosure by one of FOIA's nine statutory exemptions. Click for more information on the Provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.
FOIA and Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF)
The public has access to certain military service information without the veteran's authorization or that of the next-of-kin (the un-remarried widow or widower, son, daughter, father, mother, brother or sister) of deceased veterans. Examples of information which may be available from Federal (non-archival) Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) without an unwarranted invasion of privacy include:
Dates of Service
Branch of Service
Final Duty Status
Assignments and Geographical Locations
Source of Commission *
Military Education Level
Promotion Sequence Number *
Awards and decorations (eligibility only, not actual medals)
Transcript of Courts-Martial Trials
Place of entrance and separation
If the veteran is deceased:
Place of birth
Date and geographical location of death
Place of burial
*Items rarely available in the records we maintain.
FOIA and Official Personnel Folders (OPF)
Most information in a Federal (non-archival) Official Personnel Folder (OPF) is not releasable to the general public without the written consent of the individual whose record is involved. The Freedom of Information Act does allow, however, for certain information to be released without the individual's consent. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has determined that the following information can be released to the public:
Past and present positions
Past and present titles
Past and present salaries
Past and present grades
Past and present job locations
The Privacy Act
The basic provisions of the Privacy Act, as it applies to military and civilian records at the NPRC, are to provide safeguards for an individual against an invasion of personal privacy by:
permitting the subject to find out what records pertaining to him/her are maintained;
permitting the subject to prevent records that pertain to him/her from being used or made available for purposes other than the purpose for which they were created; and
permitting the subject to gain access to the records, or to have photocopies made of all or any portion thereof, and to correct or amend such records.
The Privacy Act places great emphasis on the privacy of the individual named in the record and carries provisions for civil action against Federal agencies for violations of an individual's rights under the Act.
Sources : Archives.gov