Discharge Certificates: Honorable (DD Form 256) and General (DD Form 257) are prepared in the original form only, and copies cannot be furnished. In many cases a requester may ask for a copy of the discharge certificate; however, after careful analysis we often find that he/she really needs a copy of the separation document, and that is what we send. On some occasions though, the requester is quite clear about wanting a discharge certificate. Our response should be based on information shown in the inquiry, and evidence found in the service record.
Options also depend on the policies of the service departments. For all of the service departments these instructions about providing discharge certificates (or substitutes) pertain only to those individuals who received an Honorable or General Discharge, and NOT to anyone for whom service resulted in an Other Than Honorable (OTH), Bad Conduct, Undesirable, or Dishonorable Discharge.
For all service departments, if the individual indicates the original Honorable or General Discharge document was never received, we must consider the reissuance of the DD Form 256 or 257. On the other hand, if there is evidence to indicate that the original discharge certificate was previously issued to an Air Force, Army, or Coast Guard veteran, and has since been lost or destroyed, a DD Form 303, Certificate in Lieu of Lost or Destroyed Discharge (CIL), may be issued.
Discharge Certificates and CILís can be issued only to the veteran, a surviving spouse, or a guardian, and not to any other next of kin or individual.
Retirement certificates: If a retiree indicates that he/she never received a retirement certificate, send the request and record to the appropriate service department; however, if the retiree indicates that the certificate was lost or destroyed, inform him/her that retirement certificates are prepared in the original form only, and copies cannot be furnished. If a second request or a complaint is received regarding the lost or destroyed certificate, refer the request and record to service department.
If a Discharge Certificate or CIL is required, the technician may prepare the document or have it prepared by a person designated to do so in that particular core. This may be the core secretary, a member of the support staff, or either. To have a designated person prepare the document, the technician completes the appropriate portion of NA Form 13085, Worksheet for Discharge Certificate, DD Form 215, and DD Form 303.
Each completed CIL must include the NARA seal, affixed to the lower right corner of the certificate.
Other specific guidelines vary by service department, as indicated in the instructions that follow:
Active Duty: NPRC does not prepare DD Form 256AF or DD Form 257AF for individuals who were discharged from active duty. If requester indicates that the certificate was never received, send the request and record to:
Air Force Personnel Center
Randolph AFB, TX 78150
Reservists: If the veteran indicates that the Honorable Discharge certificate was never received, prepare DD Form 256AF; pre-signed certificates are available at NPRC. General Discharge certificates, DD Form 257AF, are not available at NPRC; send the request and record to:
Air Reserve Personnel Center
Denver, CO 80280-4000.
For both active duty and reservists, if the requester indicates the original discharge certificate (DD Form 256AF or DD Form 257AF) was lost/destroyed, prepare DD Form 303AF, CIL. Pre-signed certificates are available at NPRC.
Prepare appropriate discharge certificate (DD Form 256A/DD Form 257A) if requester indicates the document was never received. If the original certificate was lost or destroyed, prepare DD Form 303A, CIL. Pre-signed certificates are available at NPRC. Do not include a soldier's SSN on an Army discharge certificate or CIL. (NOTE: The Army is the only branch that does not allow SSNís to appear on certificates or CILís.)
The Navy reissues Honorable Discharge Certificate (DD Form 256N) and General Discharge Certificate (DD Form 257N) upon request from service member/surviving spouse. Prepare the certificate and send it to the Navy Liaison Office for signature. You must also send the service record, since the liaison official must verify the data you entered on the certificate.
SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR NAVY OFFICERS SEPARATED BEFORE FEBRUARY 1, 1948
These officers were not issued formal discharge certificates such as those given to enlisted personnel. If the request involves such an officer, send copy of the orders effecting separation and include the following in your response letter:
Prior to February 1, 1948, officers of the naval service were not "discharged" in the sense of being awarded formal discharge certificates such as were given to enlisted personnel upon separation. Since the discharge certificates may not be issued retroactively, a copy of the orders effecting your separation are forwarded as the only tangible evidence of your discharge from the naval service.
The Marine Corps reissues Honorable Discharge Certificate (DD Form 256MC) and General Discharge Certificate (DD Form 257MC) upon request from service member/surviving spouse. Send the certificate and the service record to the Marine Corps Liaison Officer for signature.
Paper Service Record: Tab (with post-it notes) the source documents from which you extracted the data (this includes the enlistment contract, separation document, last rank and discharge info).
Microfiche Service Record: You must make paper copies of the source documents which you used (as noted above) and place them in the service record jacket, before forwarding to MCLNO.
NPRC can issue only Certificates in Lieu for former Coast Guard personnel. If the requester insists that the discharge certificate was never received, send the request and record to:
USCG Personnel Command
Attn: Ms. Robin Baker
4200 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 1100
Arlington, VA 22203-1804
Source:NPRC 1865.72 and NPRC 1865.51
Useful Link: Social Security Numbers, Dates Military Began Using.