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Facing a backlog, the Navy is slow getting discharge papers to sailors

Sailors returning to Norfolk submit paperwork to leave active duty.
Sailors return to Norfolk in 2007 and submit paperwork to leave active duty. Recently, there's been a delay in getting that paperwork to personnel. (File photo: Courtesy U.S. Navy)

Sailors can face monthslong delays getting crucial documents that prove their military service.

Navy officials said they're now taking action to tackle the backlog. 

The Navy recently hired 300 people and diverted dozens of current staff to help process the documents, known as DD-214s, Cullen James, spokesperson for Navy Personnel Command wrote in an email. Veterans need the document to access a range of educational and health care benefits, as well as show their skills and experience to employers.

“You're almost kind of held captive … to that one document,” said Sultan Camp, director of the veterans employment centers at the Hampton Roads Workforce Council. 

Camp said veterans he talks to are frustrated. The situation worsens an already difficult transition into civilian life.

“The stress levels are already high because, ‘I need to find a job, I need to get employment, and then more importantly, I need to get my benefits started,’” he said.

Sean Wireman, a veteran in Norfolk, left the Navy last June without his paperwork. 

“I kept calling them for like a week, and they didn't have it ready,” he said. 

Officials told him they would send it to his mother’s home in Iowa. That didn’t happen.

Wireman made several attempts to call Transaction Service Center Norfolk, the office that processes all DD-214s for the Navy in Hampton Roads. He said he called many times, but no one answered the phone.

Out of options, Wireman gave the center a one-star review on Google, writing: “This is a failure on Navy leadership as a whole.”

He received his DD-214 a month after leaving active duty.

According to James, sailors exiting the Navy and naval support staff are not submitting the documents in time for them to be processed or are submitting them with errors. 

For up to 74% of sailors who leave the service — about 850 cases per week — the Navy doesn’t receive the required paperwork in time to complete it, he said.

James also said there isn't enough staff in the MyNavy Career Center, which helps handle human resources for the Navy. 

Read the original story on WHRO's website.