Medical Records
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My Service Records Are Lost! Now What?

I had a good friend who was getting ready to retire from the Army several years ago. He went to a medical appointment to start getting ready for retirement, and his medical records were nowhere to be found. Twenty-one years of medical records were just gone.

Thankfully for him, the story has a happy ending. His records were found in Korea and shipped to him. But there are some Veterans whose records are well and truly gone. In 1973 a fire at the National Personnel Records Center destroyed millions of service records. The NPRC estimates between 16 to 18 million records were lost. And that is not the only reason records may be lost. Just like my friend, your records could have just disappeared to the other side of the planet.

So the question remains, what do you do then? How can you file a disability claim without any of your military records to back it up? Below are three pieces of advice to help 

  1. Civilian Medical Records.  If you have civilian medical records from during the first year after you left service showing a diagnosis of a condition, they may provide some evidence to the VA that your condition (illness or injury) is service connected. Generally any condition that occurs within the first year is relatable back to service, though be warned that is not always the case.
  2. Battle Buddy Statements.  If you have no medical records proving a condition began in service, you may be able to submit buddy statements that attest to what they witnessed. There are a few caveats to such statements. If you have a friend you served with providing a statement about an illness or injury, your friend will have to provide information on the unit, place, time, and circumstances when and how they were observers who can bear witness to what was going on. The VA will likely examine records for proof that you were in the same unit at the same time. If your records are totally destroyed, you may have to furnish some evidence that you both were there. This could be photos, videos, or other material evidence of the fact.
  3. Photo, Video, Letter, etc.  Physical evidence such as this can often be used as proof that you were in a certain place at a certain time. Many times Vietnam Veterans will have photos which show them in Vietnam, even if a tour is not on their DD214. I met one Veteran who was seeking a letter from a retired COL who could provide eyewitness that said Veteran was present in Thailand on one of our air bases during the Vietnam war. The important thing is not to give up. If the claim is important to you, then exhaust every means at your disposal to find a way to prove the condition is service connected.

And one note. Most Veteran Service Officers will bend over backward to help you in filing a claim. However, they are not going to try and track down your evidence for your claim. As we have said many times, no one is going to care more about your claim than you.

We hope this helps someone with locating proof of their service connection. If you have any questions or comments, please drop them below or email us at

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