Let’s take a break from SBP this week and talk about another topic that comes up all the time. People are always looking for documents from their service records, but are they necessarily looking for the right thing?
So, you’re trying to get a VA home loan or prove your military service for some other type of benefit. Sadly and confusingly, most if not all of the organizations that are offering a service or benefit based on your service will automatically say, “Show me your DD 214.” For a great many service members, particularly reservists, this is a distressing request.
The Department of Defense (DD) Form 214 is the “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty.” It is, or should be, issued whenever a service member completes a tour of active duty of ninety days or more. Whether or not you, as a reservist, qualifies for this document is widely variable and depends on whether you have completed the required amount of active duty service.
A great many reservists only have, if they’re lucky, a DD 214 when they finished their basic and advance training at the beginning of their reserve careers. It is entirely possible for a reservist to complete twenty or more years of service and never receive another DD 214 because they did not have any long-term tours of active duty while they were serving. Annual training and other short periods of active duty do not qualify for a DD 214. This can leave reservists seeking to take advantage of service-based benefits in a bit of a quandary.
There is another form, call the DD 220 (Active Duty Report), which is generally issued for shorter periods of active duty (other than annual training). Very often, reservists never receive these forms, either.
So, what do you do if you need to prove your service to an organization or government agency? There are options, believe it or not. If you are a currently serving reservist, you can find other documents in your electronic personnel record. The most useful document you should find in that record is your retirement points statement. This statement should show your entire military career and the number of retirement points you earned during each year of service. If you are an enlisted member, you can also find DD Form 4, Enlistment / Reenlistment Document; if you are an officer, you can find your appointment as a commissioned or warrant officer.
Some organizations, particularly civilian agencies, may not understand what these documents are. You may need to explain (politely) what the documents mean or give them contact information for your unit or a retirement services officer in order to assist them.
If you were a member of the Army or Air National Guard, you should have a copy of National Guard Bureau (NGB) Form 22, Report of Separation and Military Service. While it is somewhat erroneous to say so, you can consider the NGB 22 as the National Guard equivalent of a DD 214. The NGB 22 is verification of your National Guard service. Sadly, if you discharged from any other reserve component, there is no single-source document which proves your military service.
Now, what can you do, particularly if you were National Guard and need a copy of your discharge documents? For the National Guard of any state, there is a person as your state headquarters who can request records for you. Some of them may need a signed Standard Form (SF) 180, Request Pertaining to Military Records, or a locally produced form from you before accessing those records.
If you separated from service after 2005, that state-level person will likely have access to the Interactive Personnel Electronic Records Management System (iPERMS) and be able to pull the documents you need very quickly. If you separated prior to 2005, that person will likely need to request records from your state records archives warehouse.
If you served in a different reserve component, the first stop is to contact your branch of service or, if you are currently serving, access your electronic record. I have placed links to each service’s electronic records website below. If your branch of service no longer has those records, you can try the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). NARA will require an SF 180 from you in order to fill your request. You can mail or fax a paper form to them or submit a request online. See my notes below for a link to the NARA site and a link to an SF 180.
Now, here is a hint. If you served in multiple components, such as the Navy Reserve and the Army National Guard and you are requesting records from NARA, do NOT mention your National Guard service in your request. If you do, NARA will immediately (or, at least, has every time as of the time I wrote this article) refer you to your state’s National Guard headquarters and will not fill your request.
It is possible, especially if you were in several branches of service, that no one source will have your complete record. Naturally, the ultimate responsibility for maintaining a complete record falls on the shoulders of the service member.
I will compile and post a page on my website of as many of the state National Guard records managers as I can find. Building this complete list may take some time so please check back if you do not see your state listed.
Air Force Personnel Records (https://mypers.af.mil)
Army Personnel Records (https://iperms.hrc.army.mil/)
Coast Guard Personnel Records (http://cgbi.osc.uscg.mil/2.0/contentpanes/personal_files/summary_sheet.cfm)
Marine Corps Personnel Records (https://sso.tfs.usmc.mil/sso/DoDConsent.do)
Navy Personnel Records (https://www.bol.navy.mil/DefaultPub.aspx)
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) (https://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records)
Request National Guard Archived Records (http://rcretirement.com/national-guard-archived-records/) (List In Progress)
DD Form 214 – Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty
DD Form 220 – Active Duty Report
NGB Form 22 – Report of Separation and Military Service
Standard Form (SF) 180 – Request Pertaining to Military Records
Retirement Points Statements By Service:
Air Force Reserve / Air National Guard: AF Form 526 – Point Summary Sheet
Army Reserve: DARP Form 549 or DA Form 5016 – Chronological Statement of Retirement Points
Army National Guard: NGB Form 23B – Army National Guard Retirement Points History
Navy Reserve: NRPC Form 1070-124 – Annual Retirement Points Record
USMC Reserve: NAVMC Form 798 – Reserve Retirement Credit Report
Coast Guard Reserve: CG Form 4175 – USCG Reserve Retirement Points Statement