Your DD214 and Veterans' Employment Opportunities

Service members transitioning from the military today are some of the most educated, technically savvy, professionally qualified the armed forces have ever produced,

says Willie Hensley, deputy assistant secretary for human resources management and labor relations for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Soldiers receive training in areas such as engineering, health care, information technology and security.

Generally, employers will ask those claiming prior military service to provide a copy of their discharge form, DD214. While most employers are not permitted to disqualify applicants for a less than honorable discharge, the DD214 will disclose all of the veteran's military schools and training, as well awards and commendations.

Employers and others needing proof of military service are expected to accept the information shown on documents issued by the military service department at the time a service member is separated. Employers can only verify military service through a DD214. For that reason, they will generally request an
"undeleted certified copy".

Certification is accomplished by the adding of a seal by the repository where your DD214 is located and from where it was retrieved. Of course through credit verification, address verification and reference checks employers can easily determine if a falsified or forged DD214 has been tendered. But overall, the DD214 itself is the main source of military service verification.

What is the difference between the long-form ("an undeleted Report of Separation") and short-form ("a deleted Form of Separation") DD214?

There are two versions of the DD Form 214, usually referred to simply as "short" (edited or deleted) copies and "long" (unedited or undeleted) copies. The edited or "short" copy omits a great deal of information, chiefly the characterization of service and reason for discharge, thus the unedited or undeleted copy is generally desired by employers

Service members receive two copies of the DD-214 when they are discharged - a short form and a long form. The long form includes the narrative reason for discharge, the discharge characterization, the three-letter or three-number discharge code corresponding to the reason for discharge, and a reenlistment code. This information is not included on the short form. Essentially, the DD214 long form specifies the person's reason for leaving and quality of service (the "grade" of discharge). Reasons for leaving include completion of term of service; homosexuality; medical disability; hardship; and conscientious objection. When people speak of "bad" and "good" discharges they are usually referring in general terms to the grade of discharge.

Many civilian employers are aware of the long form, including discharge code designations, and may ask for a copy during the hiring process. If applying for a government position, either municipal, state or federal, veterans should expect to be asked to provide a copy of their DD-214. Many state licensing authorities, such as nursing, medicine or bar examiners, may also ask for a copy when an applicant seeks a license to practice their profession.

There are five "grades" of discharge: Honorable; General (Under Honorable Conditions); Other Than Honorable; Bad Conduct; and Dishonorable. The first three are given without a judicial process; the last two are the outcome of conviction by trial ("courts martial").

However, employers may tend to disregard the distinction between the administrative discharge and discharges resulting from courts-martial. As a consequence, any discharge except an honorable one can be the ticket to a lifetime of rejected job applications. It can be argued that this situation is not accidental: the DOD has intentionally linked discharge status to future employment as an incentive to good behavior while in the service.

Even on an Honorable discharge, a "Spin Code" (SPN - Separation Program Number) can hurt a veteran's chance of being hired by a prospective employer.  These spin codes were put on DD214s from the 1940's through the early 1970's. Veterans can request a new DD 214 with the spin codes removed (see below).

SPN codes are frequently assigned on the basis of subjective judgments which are difficult for the dischargee to challenge. Until recently, the codes had different meanings in each branch of service, and they have been changed several times, leaving them prone to misinterpretation by employers not possessing the proper key. Although employers are not supposed to know what the SPN codes mean, many have found out as a result of leaks from the agencies authorized to have them.

Examples of a few spin codes:

  • SPN 258 - Unfitness, multiple reasons
  • SPN 263 – Bed-wetter
  • SPN 41A - Apathy, lack of interest
  • SPN 41E – Obesity
  • SPN 46C - Apathy / Obesity
  • SPN 463 - Paranoid personality
(see a more thorough list of spin codes, courtesy Touchstone Research, HERE)

(Your service branch will also indicate a reenlistment code on your DD214. This information, too, can help or hurt a veteran in their job search. See a list of Military Reenlistment Codes, courtesy Touchstone Research, HERE)

In 1974, the DOD tried to stop unfair use of SPN codes by leaving them off its forms and offering anyone discharged prior to 1974 an opportunity to get a new form DD-214 without a SPN code. This solution has several defects. For one thing, not all pre-1974 dischargees know of the reissuance program. For another, a pre-1974 DD-214 without a SPN code may raise a canny employer's suspicion that the applicant had the SPN code removed because he has something to hide.

As of 1977, nearly 20 million veterans had a coded number.

For many reasons, your DD214 will affect your post-service employment. Veterans receiving "bad" discharges may very well encounter employment problems because many employers will request to see a copy of your DD214.

Chris S. asks, "Is there a way to up date my discharge from other than honorable conditions to honorable?"

Hello Chris,

All services will have a procedure for this, and I've attached a good article on the issue.
If you require counsel, you should Google

Discharge Review Board Attorney

And you'll find some additional references.


Here are the references: