Multiple methods exist for obtaining a Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, or DD-214, for yourself or a deceased veteran. You can mail or electronically file a request for free, hire someone to file it for you, or hire a researcher to prepare the request and to take it in person to receive the records quickly. Filing by mail or electronically can take weeks to months, while hiring a researcher cuts that time to days.
The best method to obtain a DD-214 depends upon your personal situation. If the request is for your DD-214 and you are not in a rush, the EBenefits website has a Request for Records Pertaining to Military form, or Standard Form 180, that you can print and mail or file electronically. These requests go directly to the National Personnel Records Center, or NPRC. If the NPRC does not have the military records requested, they will forward it to other agencies that may have the necessary records, delaying the process.
For those willing to pay nominal fee for assistance, a number of services are available. EzDD214.com offers one such service that determines which agencies actually hold the records and makes the requests. Other services may charge for doing what you can do for free, like providing you with the form and faxing it to the NPRC once complete.
If you can't wait for weeks to months, independent researchers for hire can determine which agencies hold the records you need are and request them on your behalf in person. The National Archives and Records Administration, or NARA, maintains a list of independent researchers. It is best to compare different researchers as a listing on the NARA independent researchers is not an endorsement of the quality of work.