What to do if You Cannot Find Military Discharge Papers to Receive Benefits

If you served in one of the branches of the U.S. military, you are entitled to different types of benefits following your term of service. These include medical and burial benefits. In order to access these benefits, you need to have your military discharge papers as part of the application process. If you’ve lost your discharge papers, there are processes available to you to locate and obtain this documentation.

Documents Needed for Burial in a Veteran’s Administration National Cemetery

If you served in one of the branches of the U.S. military, and desire to be buried in a Veteran’s Administrational National Cemetery, you need the following documents to apply for such a burial. Keep in mind, you are highly encouraged to make application for burial at a National Cemetery on your own rather than leaving it to your loved ones to make such arrangements after you pass on.

The documents and information you need to accomplish the application process are:

  • Social Security number
  • Date and place of birth
  • Military service history and status (this includes service dates, discharge character, and rank)
  • Discharge papers (this includes a DD214 or other separation documents)

You can obtain a pre-need determination of eligibility online via the Veteran’s Administration using a special online form.

Standard Process for Obtaining Military Discharge Papers

  • Obtain a copy of Standard Form 180, which can have downloaded online. This is the Request for Military Records
  • Complete the Standard Form 180 in its entirety. Leave nothing blank, of the form will not be processed in a timely manner.
  • Make certain you provide accurate dates of service on the form.
  • Only the service member, or next of kin, may sign this form.
  • Mail the completed form to the appropriate address. All addresses are listed on the back and are based on the location of your residence.

In the alternative to mailing the form in for processing, you can also make your request for replacement of records online through the National Archives Records Administration website. The website also permits you the ability to track the status of an application for military records you have requested.

The National Archives Records Administration is one of the federal government agency that oversees the replacement of these records. Keep in mind that the processing time for replacement of these records can take six months. The agency receives a significant number of replacement records requests every day.

You can also make a request for replacement of military records, by using Standard Form 180, and mailing the completed form to:

National Personnel Records Center
Military Personnel Records
1 Archives Drive
St Louis, Missouri 63132

Again, there is a time lag in receiving requested military records back from this center. Therefore, you need to be proactive in making requests for replacement documents through this resource as well.

Emergency Medical Situation

There is a system in place to assist with obtaining military discharge records in the event of a medical emergency. In other words, there are a trio of hotlines that can be called in order to access and obtain military records when a medical emergency arises. These hotlines are:

  • Army – 314-538-4261
  • Air Force – 314- 538-4243
  • Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard – 314-538-4141

Discharge Records Not Needed for VA Survivor’s Benefits

There are situations in which a service person’s discharge records will not be needed. For example, when a vet passes away, a surviving spouse, and perhaps children, are entitled to certain VA survivor’s benefits. Generally speaking, if these are the type of benefits you seek, you typically will not need discharge papers.

Military Honors at Funeral of Deceased Vet

In order to obtain more information about military funerals in the United States, contact:

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
(Military Community and Family Policy)
4000 Defense Pentagon, Room 5A726
Washington, DC 20380

Southern California National Cemeteries

Los Angeles National Cemetery

950 S Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90049
(310) 268-4675

As of this writing, the Los Angeles National Cemetery is not accepting applications for burial. Absent already having an approved, pre-arranged burial application, being interned at this location is not currently possible.

The closest National Cemetery to Los Angeles that is accepting new burials is:

Riverside National Cemetery

22495 Van Buren Blvd.
Riverside, CA 92518
(951) 653-8417

As an aside, there are nine National Cemeteries in California, but only five currently are accepting new burial applications at this time.