Military families tend to move around a lot, which means your belongings have probably been packed, unpacked, re-packed and stashed away more times than you can count. And, because things happen, sometimes they even end up in the trash.

While most veterans are pretty good at keeping things in order, lost or damaged military service records are more common than you may think. The worst part is that you may not even realize they’re missing until you need them to show proof of service for a VA mortgage, employment opportunities, burial benefits or some other type of VA benefit—and that’s when your lost original becomes a problem. So, what can you do about it?

First things first: Have your DD214 in hand before you leave active duty.

Because you can’t lose something you don’t have to begin with, making sure your paperwork is in order before you leave active duty is a must. The DD Form 214, or Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, is issued to service members upon retirement, separation or discharge from the military. That means you should have your original DD214 in hand prior to your transition to civilian life. If you do not have it, inform the necessary people in the chain of command to ensure you obtain the proof of service document(s) you need.

Original DD214s can still get lost, damaged or even stolen.

Misplacing your original DD214 is one thing, but sometimes the unexpected happens and your military service records are damaged or destroyed. Natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and fires happen—often without warning—leaving many veterans with no choice but to request a copy of their DD214.

Military service records can also be stolen by individuals looking to take advantage of veterans-only benefits or services. The headlines are full of stories about imposters using stolen DD214s or other forms to get better home loan rates, job preference or even a special license plate, as in the case of Georgia police officer Shane Ladner, who was convicted of falsifying his DD214 to get a tax-exempt Purple Heart plate for his pick-up truck.

Lying about military service is not just disrespectful to the men and women who actually served, but it can prevent actual veterans from receiving assistance when they need it. Still, the problem is so common that in 2013 President Barack Obama signed into law the Stolen Valor Act of 2013 (a revision of the original Stolen Valor Act), which made it a federal crime for a person to claim to have received military decorations or medals in order to obtain money, property or some other “tangible benefit.” On the state level, many states have followed suit and enacted similar laws to protect veterans.

If you no longer have your original DD214, you will need to obtain a copy.

And here is where things can get a little tricky. The forms veterans will need to show proof of service—such as a DD214, OMPF, NAVPERS 1070/615 or NGB22/NGB22a—are likely housed in one of the more than 100 military records repositories across the country, so it may take you a considerable amount of time to navigate all of the red tape in your way before you actually receive the documents you need.

Good news: There’s a faster, easier way to deal with a lost DD214.

Veteran-owned DD214Direct helps you get the documents you need, when you need them.

Our cutting-edge technology platform and keen knowledge of government protocol and procedure allow us to deliver your documents faster than competitors. We physically stand in line at the records repository and manually coordinate your order, freeing up your time and easing your worries about whether or not you will get your DD214. Much like paying a small fee to have your taxes done by a professional, DD214Direct provides the service and convenience you’ve been hoping for—plus we make it a lot easier.

Instead of having to download, print, sign and fax your document request form, you can submit your order directly through our website with the ease of e-signature technology from a desktop, laptop or mobile device. And tracking your request through us is simple, so you never have to worry about long hold times and inconclusive answers. Ready to get started? Click here to begin the order process.