DD214 Separation Codes: Decoding and Understanding Military Forms

Every veteran knows how vital one’s DD Form 214 is to their post-military life. Once a person has rendered their active duty service commitment, they are given a Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty. This official document from the Department of Defense summarizes a service member’s life in the military.

While the DD 214 contains plenty of pertinent information, one of the most vital parts of the form is its information on military separation. Military separation codes teach others why military personnel end active obligated service. Did that person fail to meet the minimum qualifications for retention? Is that service member entitled to severance pay? This brief portion of the form reveals a lot about military personnel.

Moreover, your military separation codes define what military benefits you are entitled to. Failure to meet minimum qualifications may render you unqualified to receive certain veteran benefits. This article will delve into the significance of military separation codes and what veterans should do if they receive an unfavorable separation code.

Where Can You Find DD214 Separation Codes?

separation code
Image Source: Virginia.gov

You may find military separation codes in Box 26 of the DD Form 214. This code is used along other sections of the form, including the Type of Separation (Box 23), Character of Service (Box 24), and Narrative Reason for Separation (Box 28). These sections help you understand whether that veteran was on the temporary disability retired list or not.

What Is a DD214?

In order to understand the importance of military separation codes, you should know what a DD214 is. Formally known as Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, a DD Form 214 is an official document issued by the Department of Defense that serves as proof of your military service. This form is given to people who have served on active duty or training for at least 90 consecutive days. People who are unqualified for active duty won’t receive this vital document.

A DD214 is significant to military veterans in different ways. If you’re seeking new employment opportunities, you will receive an unfavorable background investigation if your DD214 indicates you have a troubled past in military service. If you wish to reenlist in the military in the same or another service branch, you need this document to prove that you’re fit for active obligated service.

One of the reasons why this form is so vital to military personnel is that it helps them claim veterans’ benefits. From home loans to education assistance and healthcare to discounts in commercial establishments, your DD214 can improve your quality of life significantly as long as you leave the military under favorable circumstances.

The Significance of DD214 Separation Codes

Here’s the thing: not all military veterans are entitled to severance pay or other veterans benefits even if they meet the minimum qualifications for retention. Even if a person was on extended active duty, there is no guarantee that they’re entitled to all the benefits given to military veterans.

So, how do separation codes impact one’s post-service life? Military separation codes give everyone a general idea of whether a person underwent physical evaluation board processing or if they left the military due to their maximum period service. These codes help people understand how that individual was during their active duty service contract. They might even help decipher whether that person was a medical service personnel.

This short portion in a veteran’s DD214 can impact whether they’re qualified to apply for home loans or receive education assistance. Thus, the significance of separation codes cannot be highlighted enough. If you’re a military veteran, you should ensure your separation codes are accurate and reflect your time in the military because you might not be able to maximize your veteran benefits if you don’t.

Deciphering DD214 Separation Codes

In general, separation codes, or SPN codes, consist only of a few letters, making them difficult to understand for most people. There are hundreds of military separation codes in existence because each military branch has its own list. In fact, most veterans don’t even understand the meaning of the separation codes in their DD214.

Given how challenging it is to decipher separation codes, most people refer to the ‘Type of Separation’ (Box 23) in the form instead. There are fewer categories, making it easier to understand.

Some of the most common separation codes include childbirth or pregnancy, expiration of term of service, and physical disability existing before active duty. It is crucial to note that the Department of Defense no longer allows the military to release the meaning of these codes to the public. Be that as it may, plenty of military separation code lists are available online. However, these lists may no longer be updated because the Department of Defense may have revised their list since then.

Given that there’s a chance that lists of military separation codes are no longer updated, you should take them with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, it would be ideal to have a basic understanding of military separation codes upon discharge from military service.

Types of Separation Codes

As mentioned, provided how complex military separation codes can be, most people simply refer to the DD214’s Type of Separation code. There are only six codes available, making it significantly easier to understand. Here’s the list of codes for your easy reference:

  • Honorable or Under Honorable Conditions
  • General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions
  • Other Than Honorable or OTH
  • Bad Conduct or BCD
  • Dishonorable or DD
  • Entry Level (ELS) or Non-Characterized

Honorable is considered the most desirable option among these six types of separation codes. Receiving an honorable discharge means that the military personnel performed their duties well, which may help them receive favorable job preferences. People who receive this type of discharge receive most veteran benefits, including educational grants and loans, healthcare, and job preference benefits.

People may receive a General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions of separation for various reasons. For example, that individual may have a history of minor misconduct. In a nutshell, people who receive this separation may have performed generally well but failed to meet other expectations in active duty service. If you receive this type of separation, it will come as no surprise if a potential employer investigates your military separation code to understand what you did.

While veterans may not find it ideal to receive General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions, they are still entitled to several vital veterans benefits. These perks include but are not limited to VA healthcare, military health insurance, VA disability severance pay, and home loans. However, people who receive this type of discharge are ineligible for educational benefits under the Montgomery or Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Other Than Honorable or OTH is considered the most severe administrative discharge a person can receive. Formerly known as Undesirable Discharge, this discharge generally doesn’t entitle recipients to veteran benefits. On the other hand, the VA determines on a case-to-case basis whether that person deserves to receive a particular benefit or class of benefits. Physical evaluation board proceedings may be necessary to give them specific perks.

If you’re given an OTH discharge, when you apply for a particular veteran benefits like disability severance pay, the VA will provide you a ‘character of service’ review, determining if you deserve that benefit. However, this review doesn’t count as a discharge upgrade.

People only receive a Bad Conduct (BD) discharge after a court-martial, and there are cases wherein this person is also given a prison sentence. If you have this on your records, you may receive an unfavorable background investigation.

On the bright side, even if you receive a BD discharge in your DD214, you may still be eligible for certain benefits. As with the case of people who receive an Other Than Honorable discharge, the VA will provide a ‘character of service’ review to determine if that person deserves particular perks.

Likewise, a Dishonorable Discharge is given only after a court-martial hearing. This discharge is considered the most punitive status any military personnel can receive. The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) has a comprehensive list of offenses that may warrant a person to receive this unflattering discharge status. People who receive this discharge are not entitled to severance pay or any other veterans’ benefits.

Meanwhile, receiving an entry-level (ELS) or non-characterized discharge may have different meanings. Let’s say a person rendered more than 90 consecutive days of active duty service, which means they meet minimum qualifications for retention. However, they were on active duty for only less than 180 days. Technically speaking, it’s neither a ‘good’ nor ‘bad’ discharge status. Likewise, recipients of this discharge type shouldn’t expect to receive veteran benefits.

Appeal and Correction Process

Considering the impact of one’s separation codes on post-military life, it is understandable how some people may be compelled to have their records revisited. Fortunately, qualified veterans who have rendered enough active duty established can request a review.

reevaluation form for discharge status
(Image Source: Archives.gov)

If you believe your code is incorrect and deserve a reevaluation of your form, you should complete a DD Form 293. Before you fill out this document, you should read the detailed instructions thoroughly, as any mistakes may affect your appeal.

Section one of this form will ask you to detail basic information of the veteran, including their branch of service, full name, and contact details. Section two refers to one’s service information. Here, you’ll be asked to detail your discharge date, highest rank, discharge characterization received, separation authority, separation code, and narrative reason.

Meanwhile, section three of the form pertains to your request. You’ll be asked to detail what change you want on your DD Form 214. You will be tasked to justify why you deserve this change or upgrade. Section four refers to evidence and records. You should supply as many supporting documents and evidence as possible for the appeal to have a strong case. Hence, this isn’t a form you submit on a whim. You should be ready to defend why you deserve that correction in your DD Form 214.

Section five refers to your representative or counsel. This section is optional, so you don’t have to process your request through a third-party institution. While this option may be pricey, it may help your case to turn out favorably. There is no guarantee that you’ll be granted the request, though.

Section six pertains to your signature and the date you completed the form. This section also indicates where you should send your DD Form 293. As mentioned, every military branch has its designated review agency, and you should submit yours to the relevant agency or board.

It should be highlighted that your request should be submitted to the appropriate agency within three years after you were discharged from active duty service. If you don’t submit your form within that period, the board may excuse failure to file within the prescribed time as a reason for your denial. Thus, you shouldn’t waste time and should file an appeal immediately.

If you were deemed unqualified for active duty or want to strengthen your case, it would help if you sought counsel from military lawyers. The Department of Veterans Affairs website may also contain helpful information for your appeal. Alternatively, you may seek assistance from veteran service organizations. They may have members who have gone through the same process and can provide you with sound advice. You may also explore the Military Verification website further to learn more about your rights as a veteran.

How Separation Codes Impact Civilian Life

It’s interesting how a few letters in a single form can impact your post-military life dramatically. Even if you spent years serving your nation, failure to meet minimum qualifications can affect how many benefits you’re entitled to once you’re discharged from military service.

If you’re part of the temporary disability retired list, you’re automatically given healthcare benefits. However, the impact of separation codes goes beyond one’s veterans’ benefits. If you apply for a job, especially a government role, your separation code can affect your eligibility. Moreover, your potential employer may judge your character based on your DD Form 214 and military separation code. Even if you plan to pursue a career different from your military history, your background may still affect you significantly.

If you’re applying for a new job and you receive a less-than-ideal discharge status, you should be ready to explain why you received that discharge type. It would be better to be honest about why you received that type of discharge instead of embellishing your military history.

It would be best to remember that the DD Form 214 you’re issued isn’t final. You shouldn’t be afraid to challenge the separation code you’re given, especially if you have evidence that you deserve better.

Additional Resources for Veterans

Knowledge is power, especially when dealing with important matters like this. The Department of Veterans Affairs website contains plenty of helpful information to help you navigate this process. Regarding service records, the National Archives website has a myriad of resources that can assist you accordingly.

The military community is very supportive, and you should seek help from veteran support organizations you’re a part of. These groups may have members with helpful insight to help you not only when it comes to appealing to your separation code but also navigating your post-military life.

Thanks to the digital age, it’s become easy for veterans to connect with other veterans through social media and online forums. Some niche forums discuss separation codes that you can learn from extensively.


Once you end active obligated service, there are so many challenges to overcome. Your military separation codes may impact your life dramatically. Hence, if you think you deserve a better discharge, you should fight for your rights accordingly. There are plenty of helpful resources online and offline to make this process easier.

To learn more about veteran benefits and military verification processes, explore the Military Verification! We offer military verification services with fast turnaround time.


What does DD214 stand for?

The DD 214 is formally known as a Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty. This is an official document issued by the Department of Defense once a person is done rendering active duty service.

What are the separation codes for DD214?

There are hundreds of separation codes in existence, and each military branch has its designated list. The Department of Defense no longer releases the complete list to the public, but there are code lists online. These lists may not be accurate anymore, as the DoD may have updated these codes without prior notice.

Is DD214 a Separation Order? 

Yes, since January 1950, the Department of Defense has released the DD Form 214 as a separation order for military personnel. This is the most recent form of separation order, which applies to most veterans.

Similar Posts