Most veterans can obtain a free copy of their personnel records.
Most veterans can obtain a free copy of their personnel records.

Every person serving in the U.S. military will have a discharge status upon leaving the service. This will be one of five basic types of military discharges: honorable, general, other than honorable, bad conduct or dishonorable. These indicate the quality of military service the person performed. Most veterans and their family members can obtain a free copy of Report of Separation Form DD-214, which includes discharge status information. These records date back to World War I, and most are housed at the National Archives.

Visit the National Archives' online eVetRecs system, which will create a customized order form for you to request information from your military personnel records or your relative's records. You can use the system if you are the next of kin of a deceased veteran. This includes the veteran's father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister or spouse who hasn't remarried.

Click the link on the website to provide as much of the following information as you can: the veteran's complete name used in the military, service number, Social Security number, military branch, dates of service, and date and place of birth.

Sign and date the e-application. If you are the veteran's next of kin, you must provide proof of the veteran's death, such as a copy of death certificate, letter from a funeral home or published obituary.

Mail a signed, dated Standard Form 180 (SF 180) with the same information to the National Archives' National Personnel Record Center (NPRC) at the address listed on the form, if you prefer this method.