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Take care to get discharge documents in order

To all veterans, spouses, family members and friends of veterans: The topic this month is discharge documents.

A veteran’s discharge document(s) is the “Holy Grail” when it comes to VA benefits and assistance. It is THE document that verifies you were on active duty, guard or reserves for all branches of service. Without these documents, neither I nor the VA can verify your service without going through a lot of pain, my friends.

Here’s what you can do to help make sure I, the VA and funeral homes can help you when seeking VA benefits.

Anyone in need of veteran services should go down to the local VA office and have a copy of the discharge document(s) placed in the files of the local VA and the probate judge office at the local courthouse.

What is a discharge document, you ask? Well, for those who have not been in the military, I will try to explain. Here are some of the different documents we’re talking about:

  1. World War II: WD AGO – War Department Adjutant General’s Office – Navy and Marine Corps had NAVPERS 533, the Navy/Marine Personnel “NOTICE OF SEPERATION FROM THE U.S. NAVAL SERVICE” – There are several versions of this one.
  2. DD-214 was established in 1950 for all branches.
  3. The NGB 22, National Guard Bureau, has been around a while

So many veterans think the Veterans Administration is the keeper of all these discharge documents. Sad to say, they are not. The military and the National Archives are the keepers.

To apply for VA benefits, the VA needs a copy of your discharge documents to establish credibility, time in service and type of discharge. Therefore, you need to file your discharge documents, as explained above.

A good example is when a veteran has gone on to the big base in the sky. Every veteran should rate a flag to be draped over their coffin at the funeral. The issue comes when the funeral home asks for a vet’s discharge document. At this time, a lot of families are running around frantically trying to find the document and will call/email/visit my office because said veteran did not make sure his family had a copy.

All of this could have been avoided if the veteran had done due diligence and recorded the discharge document before passing.

If you are a veteran, then you need to get down to your local courthouse/veteran office and get your discharge documents recorded and make sure your family members have copies. More importantly, pre-arrange your funeral and make sure the funeral home has a copy, along with your wishes to have military honors or not.

It is not the responsibility of the family members but the responsibility of the veteran to ensure this is in place prior to being called to their final duty station.

If you do not have a copy of your discharge document, then come see me now, and we will work to get you a copy.

I love my veterans I work with and do my best to take care of them and their families. We have great vets – more than 1,400 of them – in this county, and it truly is a pleasure working with you.

To contact Holloway, veterans services officer for Franklin County, call 205-921-3161 or email marlon.holloway@va.alabama.gov.

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