WHY IS THE DD214 SUCH AN IMPORTANT DOCUMENT-
AT THE DEATH OF A VETERAN?
While your military discharge is formally known as the Department of Defense Form 214,
Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, most of us refer to it as our DD214.
Without a doubt this is probably the most important document issued to Veterans during their
military service. The DD214 provides valuable information pertaining to the member at the
time of their separation. From the date of discharge and throughout the remainder of the
Veteran’s life, the DD214 will be referenced and viewed by future employers; other federal
agencies; state and local governments; and many other entities for any number of reasons.
However, one of the most important uses of the DD214 is the determination and establishment
of Veterans Administration (VA) benefits and entitlements.
Not only does the information shown on the report of separation provide date and place of entry
on active duty; date and place of release from active duty; last rank held; military job specialty;
decorations and awards; and total creditable service – but just as important, it details vital
separation information. The separation information provides the type of service, character of
service, authority and reason for separation, and separation and reenlistment eligibility codes.
This separation information is the key in determining the individual entitlements to Veterans Benefits.
Death, and specifically our own mortality, is an issue most of us want to avoid discussing.
However, by not talking about it, we sometimes place an unnecessary burden on our loved ones
because we do not provide them with the most important military document – DD214.
The estate of every honorably discharged veteran is eligible to apply for – and upon meeting
specific requirements – may be entitled to certain memorial benefits upon the veteran’s death.
And the DD214 is the catalyst in proving these benefits. These benefits may include:
- Burial Allowance. Families may be entitled to certain reimbursements of burial allowances,
funeral costs, and plot interment costs (to include cremation) of an eligible Veteran.
While the Veteran must meet certain conditions for eligibility, these reimbursement payments
may range from $300 to $2000. The applicant must file VA Form 21-530, Application for
Burial Benefits, along with a copy of the DD214; copies of the death certificate;
and copies of funeral and burial bills that have been paid. These documents are sent to the regional VA office.
- Military Funeral Honors. Military Funeral Honors is mandated by law for eligible Veterans
and these honors are free of charge. These honors consist of a ceremony that includes
folding and presenting an American flag to the next of kin and the playing of taps during
the funeral service or memorial service. The funeral home or your local veteran’s organization
can help families arrange this service. While any discharge document showing honorable service
can be used, the preferred method of verifying eligibility for these honors is the DD214.
- Burial Flags. Veterans are eligible for only one burial flag and the organization performing
military funeral honors normally provides the flag. However, in rare circumstances, individuals
may request a burial flag by submitting VA Form, 21-2008, Application for United States Flag for
Burial Purposes, along with a copy of the DD214. These documents are submitted to the VA
regional office or most any US post office.
- Headstones and Markers. VA provides, free of charge, headstones and markers for the
graves of veterans anywhere in the world and eligible dependents of veterans buried in national,
state veteran or federal cemeteries. There are a variety of styles and designs for graves
markers; columbaria markers for inurned cremated remains; and medallions for placement on
commercial stones. The applicant must file VA Form 40-1330, Application for Standard Headstone or
Marker, along with a copy of the DD214 and death certificate. These documents are sent to:
|Memorial Programs Service (41A1)|
|Department of Veterans Affairs|
|5109 Russell Road|
|Quantico, VA 22134-3903.|
- National Cemetery Burial Eligibility. VA has the responsibility for verifying
eligibility for burial in VA national cemeteries. The local cemetery director,
along with assistance from the VA Regional Office, (who has final adjudication
determination authority), has the responsibility of verifying burial eligibility
in national cemeteries. The normal time lapse from the date of request to be buried
in a national cemetery until the actual internment is at least 30 days.
The burden of proof in establishing eligibility is the responsibility of the estate
of the Veteran. The primary document for establishing eligibility is the DD214.
- Presidential Memorial Certificates. VA will provide s Presidential Memorial Certificate
(PMC) to honor the memory of deceased Veterans. The PMC is an engraved paper certificate,
signed by the President of the United States, expressing the country’s grateful
recognition of the Veteran’s service in the United States Military. The PMC is
sent to the next of kin and loved ones and more than one certificate may be provided.
The applicant must submit VA Form 40-0247, Application for Presidential Memorial
Certificate, along with a copy of the DD214 and death certificate. These documents are sent to:
|Presidential Memorial Certificate (41A1C)|
|National Cemetery Administration|
|5109 Russell Road|
|Quantico, VA 22134|
Any veteran, who currently does not have a copy of their discharge, can obtain a free copy by completing
and sending Standard Form 180, Request Pertaining to Military Records to:
|National Personnel Records Center (NPRC)|
|Attn: Military Personnel Records|
|9700 Page Blvd|
|St. Louis, MO 63132|
Keep in mind, the request may take up to six months to fill. If you do have a copy of your
DD214 or when you receive your copy, it is highly recommended that you record your discharge
with your local City or County Courthouse. Then you can obtain free certified copies for the
remainder of your life, and copies are available upon your death.
For further information on these and other Veterans Benefits, please visit: www.va.org.
April 29, 2013
David G. Loy