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Key Questions to Validate the Authenticity of a Soldier’s Claim

How to Validate the Authenticity of a Soldier's Claim

One of the ways that many businesses choose to recognize the sacrifice of our military service members and veterans is to provide a military discount. It doesn’t compare to the security we experience thanks to their service, but it is something that many of us feel is the right thing to do!

There are also scholarships, special programs, and nonprofits that focus on offering services to active duty servicepeople and veterans. Although it would be amazing if we could trust that no one would ever impersonate a soldier or military service person, that’s just not something that we can do. 

So what can you do if need to verify someone’s claim of military service? The good news is that there are several strategies for validating a soldier’s claim, and many of them are quick and easy.

Why would someone pretend to be a veteran? 

The answer to this question is simple: people want to benefit from the “perks” of serving in the armed forces without having to actually sign up and commit to the hard work of being a member of the US military. 

Scammers may not be drawing a paycheck, but there are other benefits they want to take advantage of, such as: 

  • Military discounts at stores and other businesses
  • Discounted admission to special events 
  • Special rates for housing 
  • Free or discounted education 
  • Veterans’ health programs
  • Community respect and recognition

Sadly, scammers cause real harm to our veterans and active service members. 

Quite reasonably, military service members and veterans who have honestly earned their benefits and recognition feel deeply upset when others falsely claim to have served. Imposters take away resources, discounts, and other assistance programs from those who rightfully deserve them. 

These scammers dilute the honor and respect that is associated with military service by falsely portraying themselves as veterans or service members for their own gain. Beyond just taking benefits they aren’t qualified for, these individuals offend and harm actual veterans. 

Is stolen valor illegal? 

After a few years of back-and-forth over the constitutionality of making stolen valor illegal, President Obama signed a law in 2013 that made it a crime to falsely claim any sort of military service, military awards, or rank in order to gain some kind of property, money, or other benefits. 

This includes lying about military service and the following awards:

  • Medal of Honor
  • Distinguished Service Cross
  • Navy Cross
  • Air Force Cross
  • Silver Star
  • Bronze Star
  • Purple Heart
  • Combat Infantryman’s Badge
  • Combat Action Ribbon
  • Combat Action Badge
  • Combat Medical Badge
  • Combat Action Medal

It’s important to validate a soldier’s claim of military service so you’re not allowing people to commit a crime.

5 Strategies for Confirming Military Service

If you run a program that offers a military discount, having a system in place to confirm military service claims is paramount. The more significant the discount, the more important it is to confirm these claims. 

1. Use the Defense Manpower Data Center’s Military Verification

One of the easiest ways to verify military service is through to use the DMDC website. However, this easy solution isn’t accessible to everyone, as you have to have access to the individual’s social security number.

It would be inappropriate to collect social security numbers to verify military service for minor discounts or special rates on purchases, tickets, events, etc. 

If you don’t have a social security number available, you may still submit a DMDC claim, but with the disclaimer that the information you receive may not be accurate. 

2. Verify Via the SCRACVS System

If you don’t have access to an individual’s social security number, you may still be able to use the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Centralized Verification Service (SCRACVS). This system accesses the DMDC SEERS database. 

This system is usually used by lenders, attorneys, debt collectors, servicers, and other business owners who need to confirm the military status of a defendant in any sort of legal claim. This step is essential because active duty service people have financial and legal protections under the SCRACVS. 

In addition to using the online request form, you can also chat or talk on the phone with a SCRACVS representative.

3. Ask for Military Identification

Business owners can request any number of forms of identification to confirm current or past military service. 

Some examples of acceptable military ID that will validate a soldier’s claim include: 

These options are a great way to confirm military status by requesting to view a form of ID that military personnel and veterans often have on hand. 

4. Accept a DD-214 Form

The DD-2214 is also called DD Form 214. This Certificate of Release (or Discharge from Active Duty) form is provided to military personnel by the US Department of Defense when they are discharged from service. 

Anyone who served in the Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, or Coast Guard will have this document. 

This document won’t help you identify current members of the armed forces, but it will prove the past military service of anyone claiming to have served. 

5. Ask Questions to Validate A Serviceperson’s Claim

Here are some respectful, non-intrusive questions a business owner could potentially ask to confirm military service, while being mindful of privacy:

  • What branch of the service were you in?
  • When did you serve and for how long?
  • In which bases/locations were you stationed?
  • What was your military occupational specialty or job title?
  • Can you share some highlights of your service or operations you participated in?
  • Do you have any old photos of yourself in uniform you’d be willing to share?
  • Are you affiliated with any veteran organizations or networks from your service?
  • What values or skills from your military service still help you today?

The key is focusing the conversation on their actual experiences, memories, and values – not invasive personal details. Most veterans are happy to broadly discuss their service and sacrifices. 

It should be a respectful, collaborative dialogue to establish credibility – not an interrogation. With this approach, business owners can likely determine if claims of military service are legitimate without overstepping bounds.

Respectfully validate claims.

Honoring Those Who Serve

The sacrifices made by members of the military should never be disrespected or taken advantage of. When businesses, organizations, and individuals encounter someone making a claim of active or prior military service, there are several appropriate ways to respectfully validate a soldier’s claim. 

Focusing on verification through proper ID, documentation, and thoughtful conversation allows us to confirm contributions without causing offense. Most importantly, the process should be anchored in gratitude – both for those who have served honorably, and for the freedoms their service provides us all. 

With integrity and compassion, we can confirm claims while continuing to provide benefits, discounts, and support to the real heroes – our nation’s veterans and service members.

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