Sunday, April 14, 2024


In my early days of writing, about 20 months ago, I penned a simple article about being pre­pared. I will spare everyone from the terrible analogies I previously attempted. I am going to maintain continuity as the march continues to Veterans Day 2023 and discuss the neces­sary documentation to show proof of military service.

A quick recap of my last article, I stated in many more words that a Veteran is someone who previously served (in an honorable way) in the military. To formally establish status as a Veteran, you should be able to provide a discharge document. VA recognizes nearly 80 documents to establish eligibility for buri­al in a national cemetery. You may need one or more of these documents to receive other benefits.

The most current is the DD-214 or Depart­ment of Defense Form 214, Certificate of Re­lease or Discharge from Active Duty. It should be treated as the holy grail of all documents. I might argue that for Veterans the DD-214 is more important than their birth certificate or social security card. The DD-214 lists ac­tive-duty military service, service dates or length of service, and character of service (typi­cally honorable). All these details are necessary in determining benefits eligibility and estab­lishing Veteran status.

Let someone know where your DD-214 is located, preferably in a safe location. Take the original to the County Vital Records office to have a certified copy made and recorded. If you don’t have the original or an unmodified, cer­tified copy, then request one from the National Personnel Records Center www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records  

Once you have established Veteran status and applied for benefits, you should be able to stow your DD-214 in a safe, secure location. You have a couple of options to show proof of your Veteran status without carrying around that very important piece of paper. You may want to have Veteran added to your driver’s license the next time you renew it. You also have the option to request a VA Health ID Card after enrolling in VA Health Care.  

Contact your County Veterans Service Offi­cer with questions regarding Veteran status and benefits eligibility. Please do not forget to leave a message if we do not answer, as we are busy assisting others. Please be patient with your CVSO, as we are busy attempting to assist all our Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors.

Brad Anderson and Melissa Crandall are the Lake County Veterans Service Officers and can be reached at 218.834.8326 or cvso@co.lake.mn.us

Karen Christianson is the Cook County Vet­erans Service Officer and can be reached at 218.387.3639, or karen.christianson@co.cook.mn.us

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