State and federal benefits are available to veterans in order to reward them for their service to the country. These benefits include employment preference, low-cost health care and certain tax exemptions. For that reason, some individuals take advantage of the system by posing as veterans. Knowing how to spot a fake DD-214 certificate will help you confirm the person claiming to be a veteran actually served in the military.
When a service member is discharged from active duty, he is issued several copies of a DD-214 certificate by the Department of Defense. This document serves as proof the person served and includes information about the nature of his service. If a person claiming to be a veteran supplies this document to you, the first thing to check for when determining its authenticity is whether it contains spelling errors. These certificates are boilerplate forms from the government, meaning there should not be any typos and the font type should be consistent. You can find genuine DD-214's online for comparison purposes.
If the certificate appears to be legitimate, the next step is to look at the information on the document and check for inconsistencies. For instance, if the DD-214 states the officer served in a troop that was ranger qualified, he likely would have attended ranger training school. If there is nothing about ranger training under the education section, this would be a red flag that the certificate is fake. If you are unsure, you may want to have someone knowledgeable about the military help you review the certificate.
It might also be helpful to ask questions of the service member regarding the content of his document. If he cannot remember his dates of service or gives you a different reason for discharge than the reason listed, this could be a sign the document is forged. It is also possible the discharge reason he supplied is false. For instance, if the person claiming to be a veteran is male and his form reflects a discharge code of JDF, this would indicate the document is fake since this is the code for discharge due to pregnancy.
If you are still unsure whether the DD-214 you're reviewing is valid, you may ask the person for written permission to obtain his record from the National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri. In your request by mail, you must include his name, dates of service, date of birth and Social Security number. Once your request is received, you will be mailed a copy of the original certificate, if one exists.
- U.S. Army: Rangers
- American Patriot Friends Network: Military Separation Codes - Alphabetical Codes
- Minnesota State Bar Association: How to Identify Military Veterans and Service Members
- U.S. National Archives and Records Administration: Access to Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) - for the General Public
Wayne Thomas earned his J.D. from Penn State University and has been practicing law since 2008. He has experience writing about environmental topics, music and health, as well as legal issues. Since 2011, Thomas has also served as a contributing editor for the "Vermont Environmental Monitor."