The full name of the document is "Defense Department Form 214", however the document is often shortened to be called a DD 214. A DD Form 214 is also commonly referred to as "Discharge Papers". However, this is false. A person must serve a term of no less than eight years and the time they select Active, Reserve, or National Guard is counted against this limit. When a person completes their contract, they get their DD 214, with the Army being the only service to give it to their service members before they go on terminal leave (final vacation usually serving as a job hunting period). Other services must wait until after their separation date to receive their DD 214. After the eight year service obligation has expired, the servicemember receives a discharge certificate, which is coined "discharge papers" and proves the veteran served his obligation.
DD Form 214 is widely regarded as one of the most important documents in the military as it is a complete record of a service member's time in the military, awards and medals, and other pertinent service information such as promotions, combat service or overseas service, Military Occupational Specialty identifiers and record of training and schools completed.
DD Form 214 is commonly used by various government agencies, chief among them the Department of Veterans Affairs, to secure veteran benefits, and may be requested by employers should a person indicate he or she has served in the military. This document also contains codes used by the Armed Forces to describe a former servicemember's reason for discharge and reenlistment eligibility. These codes are known as Separation Designator/Separation Justification (abbreviated as SPD/SJC) Codes and Reenlistment Eligibility (RE) Codes, respectively. (A reference for a list appears in #External Links.)
DD Form 214 is also generally required by funeral directors in order to provide military honors to a deceased veteran. On September 1, 2000, the National Defense Authorization Act enabled, upon the family's request, every eligible veteran to receive a military funeral honors ceremony to include folding, presentation of the United States burial flag and the sounding of Taps, at no cost to the family.
Veterans can obtain their DD214 from the National Personnel Records Center. Veterans may also find private researchers to expedite record acquisition for a fee. The National Archives has a list of independent researchers who will undertake a personal search.