How to Prove Your Service Eligibility for Veterans Benefits
Before you can claim any veterans benefit, you must prove your service eligibility. Some veterans benefits require active duty service, while other veterans benefits are not as strict in their requirements. In any case, you will need to prove your service and manner of discharge in order to apply for a particular benefit. This is accomplished by presenting an official copy of your DD Form 214/215, or NGB 22/22A.
These forms are among the most important documents the military will ever give you. They are your key to participation in all VA programs as well as several state and federal veterans benefits programs.
Veterans benefits service eligibility and DD Forms 214 and 215
DD Forms 214 and 215 are used for certification of military service for active-duty members and members of the Reserves. DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge, displays reserve and active-duty time, military job, awards, education, dates and places you entered and left the military, military assignments, and, at the bottom of the form, why you left the service and what your discharge characterization was.
DD Form 215 is used to correct errors or make additions to a DD Form 214 after the original has been delivered.
There are two versions of these forms:
The deleted version: You can show this version to future civilian employers when you apply for a job. It excludes your discharge characterization and the reason for your discharge (on the assumption you may not want your future employer to know this information).
The undeleted version: The undeleted version must be used when applying for VA benefits. It includes your discharge characterization and the reason for your discharge.
You should receive a copy of both the deleted and undeleted versions of DD Form 214 when you process for separation from the military. However, the military being the military, this doesn’t always happen. If you didn’t receive a copy, or you lost it, you can request a replacement from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri.
Get replacement copies of your veterans benefits service eligibility
The National Personnel Records Center maintains copies of all active-duty and reserve military records. You can request a copy of any portion of your military records, including your DD Form 214/215, by submitting a signed copy of SF Form 180, Request Pertaining to Military Records. You can download this form from the National Archives website.
Mail the completed form to the National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records, 9700 Page Ave., St. Louis, MO 63132-5100.
You can now complete a records request online through eVetRecs. You must still print and sign a signature verification form (and mail or fax it), because federal law requires a signature on all records request. However, completing the application online can be easier and faster than completing SF Form 180.
Veterans benefits service eligibility and NGB Forms 22 and 22A
What DD Forms 214 and 215 are for active-duty and reserve service, NGB Forms 22 and 22A are for service in the Army and Air National Guard. Like its active-duty/reserve counterpart, NGB Form 22, Report of Separation and Military Service, includes information about your National Guard service time, military job, decorations, reason for discharge, and discharge characterization.
NGB Form 22A is used to document changes to your military records after the fact.
Because the National Guard belongs to the individual state, not to the federal government, there’s not a central repository for National Guard records.
To obtain a copy of your NGB Form 22/22A, you have to contact the National Guard Adjutant General’s Office for the particular state in which you performed National Guard service. For contact information, visit the National Guard website.
Military medical records and veterans benefits eligibility
Anyone who has ever spent even one day in the military has a military medical record. The first entry in your medical record is the details of the physical examination you underwent as part of the process of joining the military. After that, every single time you received medical care from a military medical facility, the details were entered into your military medical record.
The VA relies heavily on military medical records when making determinations as to whether you have a medical condition that was caused or aggravated by military service.
You can request a copy of your military medical record by sending a written request to the National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records, 9700 Page Ave., St. Louis, MO 63132-5100.
If you plan to file a claim for medical benefits or disability compensation with the VA, you don’t need to request a copy of your military medical record. When you file a claim, the VA will request the record automatically as part of the claims process. Likewise, if you’ve ever filed a claim for disability benefits from the VA, it already has a copy of your medical records.
You can request a copy from the VA regional office having jurisdiction over your claim.