When a servicemember is discharged, the veteran receives a DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty (DD-214). Many employers ask to see the DD-214 when considering a veteran for employment. The DD-214 not only contains favorable information but may also contain potentially unfavorable information. Adverse or erroneous reenlistment codes (RE Code) or codes indicating the reason for discharge (SPN code) may have an adverse impact on a veteran’s employment, even those who were discharged honorably.  Since 1978, a DD Form 214 has been prepared with eight copies.  DD Form 214 Service Member Copy 1 does not contain the RE or SPN code. However, providing an employer with Service Member Copy 1 may potentially be a problem.  The employer may conclude that a veteran has something to hide when he or she submits a DD-214 that does not contain any reference to these codes.   DD Form 214 Service Member Copy 4 contains the RE or SPN code.  An employer may require a veteran to furnish Service Member Copy 4 unless local law has forbidden employers to ask about the character of discharge.  In addition to containing adverse information, this can be problematic because some codes havebeen revised over the years, and some codes have been assigned new meanings.  Some employers may be confused about the codes and think that any number on the DD-214 may be a bad code.

Removing A Separation or SPN Code:

If the veteran’s discharge is less than fifteen years old, the appropriate Discharge Review Board has the authority to change the SPN code shown on the DD-214.  The veteran can apply to the Discharge Review Board (DRB) with DD Form 293. The veteran must explain to the Discharge Review Board why the assigned code was either 1) “inequitable”(unfair); or 2) improper or a legal error. 

If the veteran’s discharge is older than fifteen years, then the Veteran should apply to the Board of Corrections of Military Records (BCMR) or the Board of Corrections of Naval Records (BCNR) with DD Form149.  The BCMR and BCNR use different terms for the same concepts of fairness and legal error: “injustice” and “error.” “Injustice,” like the DRBs’ “inequity,” is about unfairness and “error,” like the DRBs’ “impropriety,” is about illegality.

In all cases, the veteran must tell the Board not only why the narrative reason that the military assigned is wrong, but also what the correct reason should be.  The veteran should review the separation regulations that were in effect at the time of your discharge and determine if the requirements for the reason that was assigned was met. It’s also possible that the separation regulations have changed since the time of the veteran’s discharge. The Veteran may be able to argue that if the new regulations would have been in effect when they were discharged, the military would have assigned a more favorable reason.

Reenlistment Codes:

Reenlistment codes indicate whether a veteran is eligible to reenlist in the military.  Any code other than “RE-1” might cause a potential employer to wonder about the quality of the veteran’s military service.  Code RE-4 bars reenlistment and has to be changed before a veteran can reenlist.  Codes RE-2 and RE-3 are either waivable or non-waivable- they can be disregarded in some circumstances, but not in others.  Many employers do not understand that many codes other than RE-1 indicate nothing adverse about a veteran’s service.  Additionally, many RE codes resulting in a “bar to enlistment” were entered in service records with no opportunity for the servicemembers to defend against the action.   

The services do no readily change RE codes.  The clearest basis for a change in a RE code, other than a code having been mistakenly assigned, is a change in the reason for discharge. Another approach could be that the code was improperly issued under the applicable regulations.  

Edward M. Farmer is a U.S. Army veteran and attorney. A majority of his career has been dedicated to assisting veterans. More information regarding Edward and his law firm can be found at www.vetlawoffice.com

The material and information contained on these pages and on any pages linked from these pages are intended to provide general information only and not legal advice. You should consult with an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction before relying upon any of the information presented here.