Where can I find that? Let’s face it. As Veterans, we have a lot of information that we need to keep up with. We also have a lot of records we have to keep and, unfortunately, we sometimes misplace that paperwork. If you are like me, you misplace it two days before you really need it.
This post is going to bring together the sources of paperwork. Veterans commonly need their DD214, medical records, and other service records. If you are missing any of these documents, my advice for you is to remedy the situation now. Write, email, or otherwise request the documents and make sure you have them in a safe place.
With that being said, here we go:
We’ve hit this one a couple of times before, but it definitely bears mentioning again. Your DD214 is THE most important document you will ever have from your military career. Regardless of how long you were in Service, the DD214 is the single accepted document of proof that a Veteran served. Without access to the DD214, many Veteran benefits are more difficult, if not impossible, to enjoy. With that being said, where do we go to get a DD214 if we do not currently have one?
- milConnect. This is the quickest and easiest to method to retrieve a copy of your DD214.
In order to sign in to milConnect, you will need a DSLogon (DoD Self-Service Logon) or MyPay logon. If you do not have a DSLogon, you can go to https://milconnect.dmdc.osd.mil and click the “Start Here” link in the top right. From there you will have the option to create a DSLogon. That one username and password will give you access to many DoD and VA websites including VA.gov.
With your DSLogon and access to milConnect, you will be able to download any of your Service records including your DD214.
- VA Database.
You can contact your local VSO. If you are receiving VA compensation, your VSO should be able to download a copy of you DD214.
Note that this is not the normal problem. Most of the time we meet Veterans who need their DD214 in order to file for disability or pension. They don’t have a copy of the document and the VA doesn’t have a copy.
- Local Courthouse
This method may be a long shot. At one time Veterans were advised to file a copy of their DD214 with their local County Clerk when they returned home. IF you were one of the Veterans who did this, you can go to your local courthouse and get a copy of it. However, in reality we have met very few Veterans who actually filed their DD214.
Finally, a Veteran can order a copy of their DD214 from the National Archives. The service is free (to a reasonable extent). However, it is not quick. Currently, as of August 2021, there is a reduction of on-site staffing at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis where the records are actually stored. The center is staffed at 10 percent of the normal workforce and only servicing emergency requests associated with medical treatments, burials, and homeless veterans trying to gain admittance to a homeless shelter.
Medical Records / Service Treatment Records
Service Treatment Records (STRs) are the medical records which have been generated about a Veteran while they were in Service. Depending on the length of their service, a Veterans STR could be a handful of pages to several hundred pages long. As Service Members are transitioning from Active Duty, it is easiest to request a copy of their medical records before their final out. They will receive the records in pdf format on a CD.
Tricare Online – If a Veteran has left Service within the last five years, it is likely they can access Tricare online and download a copy of their military medical records. However, if the Veteran cannot retrieve the records, they will have to go through the National Archives NPRC in order to retrieve the records.
For everyone else, the only way to retrieve a copy of STRs will be to request a copy from the NPRC. As stated above, the NPRC currently is working at 10 percent of the normal workforce due to COVID and is only servicing emergency cases.
Private Medical Records
For private medical records a Veteran has two options. They can fill out a form which will allow the VA to request the medical records from their private doctor, or the Veteran can get the records and upload them or take them to a Veteran Service Officer themselves.
The VA has a duty to assist Veterans in gathering the evidence to help prove the claim. Part of this duty to assist is making a reasonable effort to assist the claimant in obtaining evidence records from private practices which the claimant identifies and authorizes the VA to obtain. The VA states that a reasonable effort consists of three attempts to gain the records. If the private practice fails to reply, the VA will adjudicate the claim with the evidence it possesses. Therefore, VSOs usually advise Veterans to obtain their own medical records to ensure they are included in the claim.
Birth Certificates / Marriage Certificates / Divorce Certificates / Death Certificates
There are many reasons that Veterans and / or family may need copies of vital records. Many of the forms which they submit require proof. If the Veteran is filing for a pension, or the surviving spouse is filing for DIC or a survivor’s pension, they must provide an unbroken chain of all previous marriages and divorces and/or deaths of previous spouses in order to prove their current marriage is legal.
In addition, Veterans need birth certificates and marriage certificates in order to add dependents to a claim. If a Veteran is receiving disability compensation or a pension, the VA pays a little bit more for each dependent.
Veterans can order all of these from their state departments. Health departments or departments of vital records normally maintain birth and death certificates. In many instances, county clerks maintain the records of marriages or divorces. Veterans need to contact the county where they were married or divorced to request the records.
VA Statement of Benefits
Veterans in Northwest Arkansas who receive 100% Permanent & Total disability are exempt from paying property taxes. Not all of the states in the US follow this convention, but there are some which do. We have met many Veterans who are tax-exempt, and do not receive their Statement of Benefit at their normal time. This seems to be a fairly common theme. If you are one of these Veterans who do not receive your letter on time, you can call 800-827-1000 to speak to a Regional Office and have them mail you a copy of your letter.
These cover most of the paperwork that Veterans typically need. If you come upon other paperwork which you need and you cannot locate it, talk to your local VSO. They may be able to help you locate where it can be accessed.
As always, if you have any comments or questions, you can drop them in the comments section below.