Using Military Records in Pre-Employment Screening

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Posted by: David Garcia June 26, 2023

It’s not uncommon for employers to request the military records of potential employees. Many former service members have worked in the armed services for years, and some even list them as their primary previous employers.

It’s incumbent upon hiring committees to thoroughly vet the past experience of serious candidates for job openings. But what is the legality of requesting military records? To ensure your bases are covered legally and logistically, dive into the following guide. 

Can Employers Look up Military Records?

Most military records are considered classified, and thus inaccessible to public request. Even duty and deployment records are kept private, whether or not they reveal personal or incriminating information. The military operates with an understandable level of privacy, even bordering on secrecy.

However, the military understands that all service members will eventually move on and seek employment outside the service. While records are kept private, employers and background screening service companies can request access to those records. More often than not, those requests are granted.

So what do hiring committees and background screening servicers need before making a records request? Permission from the candidate. Have a conversation with the candidate about the type of records you’d like to request, and then sit down together to complete a release document.

Once the military branch that employed the candidate receives a release form signed by the candidate, they can grant permission to any and all records access requests.

How Do Employers Verify Military Service?

Many background screening service providers list military records requests as part of their basic menu of services. Employers can request military records requests alongside driving records, employment history, drug and alcohol screening, and more. 

Like the other requests, military records come with a unique set of specifics to get approved. It’s best for an employer to keep questions about military service to the records requests themselves. Avoid asking former enlistees about their time in the military, particularly about the conditions of their discharge. The records will provide the necessary information. 

What Information Can Be Shared With Employers?

As with employment requests, drug and alcohol screening history, and other background checks, there’s a limit to how much information can be shared, and what type of information. 

The file that will most likely be sent to an employer following a records request is a DD-214, a formal write-up of the discharge process. It will include the circumstances around why the enlistee was discharged, a write-up of the details and quality of their service (rank, awards, recognition, badges), and what benefits they will receive moving forward. 

Types of Military Service Discharges

A “military discharge” refers to the release of a service member from their obligation to serve. The U.S. Military recognizes six distinct types of service member discharge. Then there’s the unique entry-level separation category, which is a kind of uncategorized officer discharge. Each type will tell you something different about the candidate you are interviewing. 

Honorable Discharge

The most commonly known and commended type of discharge is the Honorable Discharge. Service members who have received either good or excellent notices from their superiors receive this type of discharge. They must have met all required service duties, completed all tours of duty, and not committed any misconduct.

General Discharge

If a service member ever engages in minor to moderate misconduct, they will receive a general discharge. Commanders must disclose the specifics of the misconduct on the DD-214 stated above, and the service member must sign a statement swearing to understand these terms. At this level, service members begin to lose eligibility to participate in the GI Bill, and may not be able to re-enlist. 

Other Than Honorable Conditions Discharge

An Other Than Honorable discharge means that the service member has committed some significant breach of conduct. This can include assault, a security violation, excessive disobedience, or drug use. 

The service member will be blocked from receiving VA benefits until further review, though they can still apply for medical and disability benefits, as well as vocational programs. 

Bad Conduct Discharge (BCD)

How you exit the armed services is important for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that it determines what kind of veteran benefits you’ll receive. In the case of a Bad Conduct Discharge, colloquially referred to as a Big Chicken Dinner due to the acronym BCD, service members forfeit all post-enlistment benefits. 

Dishonorable Discharge (DD)

This is the worst type of discharge in the U.S. military. The service member will be court-martialed after conviction for an offense such as treason, desertion, or homicide. All benefits are forfeited, prison time is sentenced, the right to vote is taken away, and in some cases, a death sentence can even be imposed. 

Officer Discharge

In this special case, special officers who cannot receive bad conduct discharges or be discharged in dishonor are expelled from the military by court-martial. However, they do not incur all the punishments of a dishonorable discharge.

Entry-Level Separation

This type of discharge is reserved for enlistees who leave the military before completing the required 180 days of initial service. This isn’t always seen as negative, as sometimes medical or administrative conditions force it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Your Military Record Show Up on Background Check?

Your military record will not automatically appear in a general background check unless your potential employer requests it. Employers will need to get your permission to request your military record. 

Final Thoughts

While employers can request your military record as part of the background screening, they must receive your permission. 

If you give an employer permission to access your military record, they should rely on the report in the DD-214 that will disclose everything they need to know about your military background and benefits. Employers shouldn’t vet your past military experiences, especially the type of discharge you received, as the information they’ll need will be in the DD-214 record report.

If you need to order a full round of background screening services for a crop of job candidates, get in touch with us at ScoutLogic. We can handle all types of background screening requests, including military service record requests, with the appropriate discretion and expediency. We’ll help you stay compliant and do the job as quickly as possible.

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