How To Read DD214 Codes And Understand Their Importance

If you used to work for the US military, one of the most important documents you should be aware of is the DD Form 214. This document proves your military service, allowing you to claim different benefits and opportunities. If an institution requires you to verify military service, your DD214 would be more than enough to certify that you were in active military service.

As a former service member, you should understand the codes in your DD Form 214. These codes are essential in screening veterans and determining your eligibility for benefits and reenlistment. You should ensure all information about your military service background is accurate to maximize your rights as a veteran.

Key Parts Of A DD214 Form

A DD Form 214 contains pertinent information that proves one has served in the military. The DD 214 is broken down into several blocks. Each one includes a specific piece of information that pertains to the person who was in active service. Here are the parts of a DD 214 for your easy reference:

First part of the DD214 military form

Name. This contains the service member’s full name when they were on active duty.

Department, component, and branch. This section includes whether the individual was on active duty, reserve, or guard. This also specifies which military unit they served under.

Social security number. Also known as SSN, this number is assigned to all US citizens and other residents to track their income and determine benefits.

Grade, rate, or rank. This pertains to the person’s grade or rank during their last duty assignment.

Pay grade. Military pay grades equate to the numerical rating for their rank. Enlisted personnel are given the level E, while warrant officers are assigned the class W. Commissioned officers with over four years of service receive the position O. A military personnel’s basic grade depends on their rank and how many years they’ve been in service. The lowest military pay grade is E-1, and the highest is O-10.

Date of birth. This refers to the military personnel’s birthday.

Reserve obligation termination date. Most recruits are required to sign up for an 8-year obligation. However, those eight years don’t have to be served in active duty. When the veteran’s DD Form 214 says that their Reserve obligation code is 00000000, it means that they rendered military service for eight whole years.

Second part of the DD214 Form

Place of duty into active service. This is the place where the veteran was accepted for active duty training. In short, this is the address on their AD orders.

Home of record at the time of entry. This refers to the person’s active duty home address when they signed up for military service. This isn’t the person’s full address, just their hometown, and state where they lived before rendering military services.

Last duty assignment and major command. This shows the last duty assignment of the person when they were on active duty and whose jurisdiction they fell under at the time.

Stations where separated. This pertains to the military station where the individual was last stationed before they separated from serving in the military.

Command to which transferred. This area is filled up only when it applies to the particular individual. There may be instances wherein this portion is blank.

SGLI coverage amount. Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance is a low-cost group term life insurance for military personnel. This amount refers to SGLI protection that the person was entitled to at the time.

Primary specialty. This code is service-specific and reflects the veteran’s branch of service when they were on active duty. The code refers to the person’s career field and skill level where reported. Coding will also differ when it comes to officers and enlisted personnel. For example, this may specify if that individual was a medical service personnel.

Record of service. This is one of the most critical portions of military records, as it reflects that person’s history when they were on active duty. Service members must ensure that everything is accurate in this portion.

  • 12a. Active duty for the last time when the DD Form 214 was released. If the person is still in active military service, this portion reflects their current tour or date ordered in active duty.
  • 12b. This is when the separation documents are enacted or effective.
  • 12c. This is the period of time between the dates shown in 12a and 12b.
  • 12d. This is the total of all active military service the personnel served before the current continuous active service (if applicable).
  • 12e. This is the total of all inactive services. This usually refers to when that person was a reserve or guard. However, circumstances like delayed enlistment program (DEP) before 1985, Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) time between commissioning and the day before EAD, disenrolled ROTC up to EAD, disenrolled academy from the time placed in leave without pay (LWOP) may also be applicable.
  • 12f. Total foreign service during their continuous active military services for the time the DD Form 214 was published.
  • 12g. This is the period of time assigned to a ship during the current period of continuous active service.
  • 12h. This is the date when the personnel entered into active duty for the last time when the DD Form 214 was published.
  • 12i. This is the effective date of active duty grade held upon release from service.

Decorations, medals, badges, citations, and campaign ribbons awarded or authorized. These are the military accolades the service member received while on active duty. These pertain only to the military awards given up to the effective date of the DD Form 214.

Military education. This refers to the military professional education that the person attained. Military education also includes the formal in-service training courses that they took while in service. This may include training and classes such as NCO Schools, the Community College of the Air Force, basic military training, senior non-commissioned officer training, etc.

Commission or enlistment. This indicates whether that veteran was commissioned through a service academy, loan repayment program, or ROTC scholarship. This portion is filled up only when it’s applicable.

Days accrued leave paid. This section indicates if the veteran was or was not paid for unused military leave. If this portion says 0, this means that the individual has zero or a negative balance.

Dental block. This section indicates whether the veteran was offered a separation examination and treatment completed within 90 days of separation, release, or retirement. This is also called the final-out dental exam.

Remarks. This section contains various pieces of information about different aspects of service. It includes whether danger pay was given and the use of the delayed enlistment.

Third part of the DD214 Form

Mailing address after separation. This is where the veteran wants to receive all future correspondence once they leave military service. The active duty home address must be a permanent one. It can also be the address of a relative who can forward all correspondence to the service member.

Nearest relative. This portion is meant as a backup for correspondence if the service member’s address becomes invalid. You may enter ‘not provided’ if no other active duty home address is available. This information is primarily for mailing a DD Form 214 and doesn’t impact veterans’ benefits.

Member requests Copy 6 be sent to. This refers to the designated state of the Office of Veteran Affairs where the veteran wishes documentation to be forwarded.

Member signature and date. This section is the veteran’s signature and the date they signed the form. The form will indicate ‘member not available for signature’ for DD Forms 214 signed with a common access card by the certifying official.

Official authorized to sign and date. This is the signature of the official who signed off on the person’s separation from active service.

Type of separation. This portion says whether that person was released under discharge, administrative separation, or other types of separation.

Character of service. This refers to the type of military discharge this person was given upon leaving active duty. Most individuals receive an honorable discharge and are entitled to full veteran benefits.

Separation authority. This portion quotes the regulation that justifies the separation.

Separation code. This is for internal purposes only. This code has no impact on the overall document.

Reentry code. This code defines a person’s eligibility for reentry into military service upon separation from the military. Each military branch has its criteria for reenlistment eligibility, so the codes vary.

Narrative for separation. This section offers a brief explanation of the reasons why that person is leaving the service. This may be parenthood, retirement, education, and the like.

Dates of time lost during this period. Any time lost is indicated in this portion. The veteran’s period of absence without leave (AWOL) is included here, if applicable.

Member requests Copy 4. This comprises a veteran’s request to receive the Member 4 version of DD Form 214.

Explanation Of DD Form 214 Codes

There are various codes indicated in the DD Form 214, and they may have a significant impact on the veteran’s future. It would help if you had a basic understanding of the codes in the form because they may affect your employment opportunities and military benefits indefinitely.

Most portions in the DD Form 214 are personalized, while some parts have assigned codes.

In the upper part of the form, the first code you’ll encounter is the person’s pay grade. An individual’s pay grade depends on the person’s rank and years of service. As mentioned, the lowest pay grade that can be assigned to an individual is E-1, while the highest is O-10. The general rule is that the longer a person has been in service, the higher the pay grade they’re given.

The following code refers to the reserve obligation termination date. All enlisted personnel have agreed to an initial 8-year obligation after taking the oath. This code changes once a person renders time on active duty.

The next code in the DD Form 214 is the person’s primary specialty. Coding will differ between officers and enlisted personnel and the military branch they served. There are thousands of specialty codes in the military because there are many jobs within every branch.

One of the most relevant codes in the DD Form 214 is the type of separation. This impacts the benefits a person is entitled to once they finish their duties. It also affects their employment opportunities and chances for reenlistment in another military branch.

Another vital code in the DD Form 214 is the reentry code. If you want to sign up for another branch of service, you should confirm if you can do so as stipulated in your form. The requirements to enlist in another military branch may differ. Hence, there is no guarantee that you’re qualified to enlist in another unit even though you already have a history in service.

How To Read DD214 Separation Codes

As mentioned, separation codes are one of the most significant portions of the form. They categorize plenty of reasons for a veteran’s separation from the military. Separation codes are also called SPN, discharge, and spin codes.

These codes are intended for the internal uses of the DoD in collecting data to analyze statistical reporting trends that may impact changes in separation policy. Before, the DoD utilized numeric codes for this portion, but this has been changed to alphabetic codes in recent years. Moreover, the DoD now withholds releasing the meaning of separation documents and codes.

Note that separation codes are subject to change depending on DoD policies. Here are some common separation code examples you should learn about:

  • BB: Maximum Age
  • BDG: Parenthood or custody of children
  • CF: Attend civilian school
  • DCH: Early Release to teach
  • DF: Pregnancy or childbirth
  • FBC: Other

How To Read DD214 Reentry Codes

Each branch of the military establishes its criteria for eligibility, so the codes vary per branch. Understanding reentry codes is vital because it can impact a person’s ability to enlist in another job in the military in the future.

In general, there are four types of reentry codes in the military:

  • RE Code 1: The person may reenlist without issue. This is the ideal reentry code for people who want to work in military services again.
  • RE Code 2: The person may reenlist, but restrictions apply. This code may mean that circumstances resulting from the code are not applicable anymore.
  • RE Code 3: The person may reenlist but may need a waiver.
  • RE Code 4: The person is ineligible to enlist or join another service if they don’t have an Exception to Policy (ETP) waiver.

How To Request Changes Or Corrections To Your DD214

Because an individual’s DD Form 214 can affect their lives indefinitely, you should ensure that all information in your form is accurate and updated. However, there are instances wherein there are errors in the form. Fortunately, there are ways for you to request changes or corrections.

To make the necessary changes in your DD Form 214, you should submit a written request for a correction (DD Form 215) and include a copy of your DD Form 214. Your request should include details about the items you want updated and copies of documentation supporting these changes.

If you are a discharged veteran, changes to your discharge papers are only warranted if the change occurred during your tour of active duty or reserve service.

Meanwhile, you may request a change or correction to your official military records anytime if you’re a retiree. These changes may include your name, social security number, date of birth, or place of birth. For your request to be processed, you should submit the following documents:

  • Birth certificate
  • Court order
  • Divorce decree
  • Social Security Card
A sample of a Standard Form 180

You can submit the request in letter format, but you should include the date you wrote this letter and your signature. Alternatively, you may send a Standard Form 180 (SF-180). You can download the SF-180 through this link. Before you fill-up the SF-180, you should read the instructions on the first page carefully.

The first page of the SF-180 will ask you to share basic information, like your name while you were on active duty, social security number, place, and date of birth. You must also provide the details of your time in service, such as the military branch where you served, entry date, and release date. You should indicate if you did as an Active Duty, Reserve, or National Guard member. Then, you should write the last four duty stations, whether you’re deceased or not (applicable if you’re requesting another person), and if you retired from service.

The second section portion of the SF-180 is the most essential one for this purpose. It is about the documents or information you’re requesting for. You should indicate that you are submitting the DD-214 to get your VA benefits.

The last part of the SF-180 form basically refers to your return address and signature.

Once you’ve filled out the form, you can choose to send it online, via mail, fax, or in person. The SF-180 indicates the proper address to send your document, depending on which branch you served in. However, it would be best if you noted that it may take weeks or even months for the DoD to process your request. Different factors may affect how fast you receive your DD214. These include the current volume of submissions, workload, and whether your request is within the continental US or from overseas.

Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to check the status of your change request online. If you know your request number, you can check your status through this link. You must provide more information if you don’t know your request number. You can refer to this page to learn your status.

If you need to verify your military status but don’t have the luxury of time, you should seek help from Military Verification. We’ll help you verify military service for your personal needs. We can also search for records of other military personnel.


Given the importance of one’s DD Form 214 to one’s future, you should understand DD Form 214 codes. You should ensure all information is accurate because this form can affect the benefits you can enjoy. If you have any questions about your form, do not hesitate to ask for help. Explore the Military Verification website to learn more about verifying active duty status and requesting necessary military documents.

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