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Research Questions

  1. Does the content of DD Form 214 remain relevant?
  2. Are the policies and procedures governing DD Form 214 comprehensive?
  3. Has the Department of Defense properly planned for the transition from paper to electronic forms?

Electronic systems are becoming increasingly complicated and interconnected, and those of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) are no exception. Due to the evolution of electronic systems, combined with the need to save time, energy, and money, DoD plans to replace paper delivery of servicemember separation information with electronic delivery. A timely analysis is critical to ensure DoD is best positioned to optimize and effectively orchestrate this opportunity. Clear, authoritative information on characterization of service and reasons for separation is critical for individuals as they re-enlist, change duty status, or transfer into civilian employment; for dependents and survivors; for government agencies that adjudicate veteran status and benefits; and for military departments, as they move toward fully integrated digital databases. DoD's DD Form 214 has existed since the 1950s, when it standardized information across the services by replacing service-level forms. The form is largely unchanged since that time and has remained the defining document to verify a servicemember's discharge from active duty. As electronic information supplants paper, information provided by the services must continue to meet the important purposes of DD Form 214. To ensure consistency across the services and avoid omission of critical information, DoD needs an in-depth analysis of the current use of DD Form 214 to identify ways in which it could be improved to meet the diverse needs of the numerous organizations and individuals who use and depend on it.

Key Findings

New policies, processes needed

  • Future changes to DD Form 214 should be well coordinated to account for all stakeholders.
  • New policies and data management processes are needed to help ensure DD Form 214 content is more complete and accurate.
  • Current Reserve and National Guard policy does not adequately address some key issues.
  • Not all blocks on DD Form 214 are of equal importance: Some are obsolete, others are critical.
  • There are multiple options to prove veteran status and for accessing data on DD Form 214.
  • Various options exist for moving toward an electronic record, each with advantages and disadvantages.


  • Develop education and training for servicemembers, suppliers and end users of DD Form 214 as it transitions to an electronic form.
  • Develop policies and data management processes that help to ensure DD Form 214 content is more complete and accurate.
  • Assess the policy governing the issuance of DD Form 214 for Reserve and National Guard members.
  • Modify the current version of DD Form 214 in response to stakeholder feedback
  • Explore options for accessing the data on DD Form 214.
  • Employ a phased approach to updating DD Form 214 to a completely electronic record.

This research was sponsored by the Officer and Enlisted Personnel Management Office, within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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