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Why You Need to Request Military Medical Records

April 27, 2020

In preparing your VA claim for disability compensation, it is vitally important to request military medical records, also called Service Treatment Records (STR). These records are often key to the decision made about your claim. 

It is also vitally important that you review these records to make sure they’re accurate. Any inaccuracies in your records have the potential of damaging your VA claim. 

These records are what the military, exclusively, recorded during your time in service. They should include your induction and separation-of-service physical exams you went through as well as all outpatient, dental, and mental health appointments you may have had. 

Request Military Medical Records

Your military medical records may very well provide the information needed by the VA to prove the service-connection for your disability.

Unfortunately, over the years there have been a number of issues and changes with veterans getting their records. Because of this, the methods for gathering your medical records have changed a few times and it is important to know what the best way is, currently, for obtaining your records. 

You can watch this information-packed video on how to request your military medical records and be sure and read all the tips in this article so you know just what to do to get yours!

How to Request Military Medical Records

Generally speaking, your military records are free to request from the Federal Government, so be sure to avoid any companies that advertise getting you copies of your records for a fee. They are a scam!

First of all, only you or your next-of-kin may request copies of your military records. 

The main route to request military medical records is calling the VA claims number 1-800-827-1000 and filing the request. We know this process can be a bit daunting for some, which is why we wrote an entire post on how to find your military medical records.

Another way to acquire your records is to go directly to the source.  Military Treatment Facilities are required to keep your records physically and electronically for up to 6 years, even after discharge. After the 6 year mark post-discharge, your medical records are sent to the National Archives. If you are within 6 years of discharge and you live near a Military Treatment Facility, go there in person. 

request military medical records

Before you start the request, be sure to have the following information:

  • Your complete name used in service
  • Place of birth and birthday 
  • Your service number
  • Social security number
  • Your branch of service
  • Dates of service

Once you’re ready, there are a few options available for submitting your request. The fastest option is via eVetRecs. This is the online program for the National Archives. Fill out the online form and provide as much information as possible in the comments section to make sure you get YOUR records. 

If you’d rather not go the online route, you can submit a request using Standard Form 180. You can download and print a PDF of this form at https://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/standard-form-180.html

Or, you can order a form by writing to: 

National Personnel Records Center
1 Archives Drive
St. Louis, Missouri 63138

Fill out the SF-180 and return it to the same address, or fax it to 314-801-9195.

Where are My Records?

The VA Records Management Center, in St. Louis, MO is where the bulk of active duty health records have been stored since 2014. 

Why you should request military medical records

However, before 2014 there was a roughly 20-year period where each branch of the government retired their medical records to the VA at different locations. If you were discharged from the early 90s through 2014, the VA will direct you to contact information for the correct location of your records. 

The locations are as follows by military branch and the dates they used the location:*

BranchStatusDateRecord Location
ArmyDischarged, retired, or separated from any component10/16/1992 to 12/31/2013Department of VA, Records Management Center
  on or after 01/01/2014AMEDD Record Processing Center
NavyDischarged, retired, or separated from any component01/31/1994 to 12/31/2013Department of VA, Records Management Center
  on or after 01/01/2014BUMED Navy Medicine Records Activity
Air ForceDischarged, retired, or separated from any component05/01/1994 to 12/31/2013Department of VA, Records Management Center
  on or after 01/01/2014AF STR Processing Center
 Discharged or retired from Reserves or National Guard06/01/1994 to 12/31/2013Department of VA, Records Management Center
  on or after 01/01/2014AF STR Processing Center
Marine CorpsDischarged, retired, or separated from any component05/01/1994 to 12/31/2013Department of VA, Records Management Center
  on or after 01/01/2014BUMED Navy Medicine Records Activity
Coast GuardDischarged, retired, or separated from Active Duty – Reservists with 90 days active duty for training04/01/1998 to 09/30/2014Department of VA, Records Management Center

What to Expect After Submitting Your Request

The NPRC processes almost 20,000 requests for military medical records per week, so the time to process your request can vary. However, the NPRC states that 92% of military medical record requests are processed within 10 days, although they also state that certain types of health records may involve delays. 

Why It’s Worth the Time to Obtain Your Military Medical Records

As stated earlier, before submitting your claim for disability compensation to the VA you will want to verify that your military medical records are complete and accurate. 

It’s no secret that the VA Medical Record system has been a giant mess. Many thousands of records are still in print and being converted to digital as we speak. It’s been estimated that the entire log of records would stack 5 miles high!

Request Military Medical Records

This has caused significant delays in conversion. It also means that there is plenty of room for human error while compiling your data. 

On top of that, there are separate records kept for any instances where you may have had an inpatient hospital stay. In such circumstances, clinical records were generated and sent to the NPRC by that facility, NOT by the military branch. This can lead to misplaced records. 

Another reason is that, since 2014, veterans have been able to seek care outside of the VA system. When the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act was signed into law, it enabled more options for veterans seeking care, but that also meant more medical records being recorded outside of the military.

If you fall into this category of care outside the VA or military system, be sure to get copies of all medical appointments and treatments done and have those records sent to the VA. Civilian care does not exclude you from getting a VA disability, you just need to provide that documentation as well. 

Then, you can work to fix any mistakes or missing information before submitting your claim. To learn the 3 MOST important steps to take when filing your claim, read our post here.

Finally, having your records on-hand can help you prepare for your C&P exam, which is one of the most critical steps of your claims process. Knowing your own history with your condition comprehensively is essential for a strong exam. 

Can you prove service-connection without your VA medical records? That’s a bit more complicated, which is why we wrote an entire post on the subject here

Getting the Help You Need

Now that you know why obtaining your military medical records can benefit you, there should be little reason for you not to request military medical records. 

The more information you possess on your condition and history with it, the more power is in your hands! 

However, if you still do not feel comfortable with the process of obtaining those records, or if you feel like you could use some expert assistance with putting together a stronger VA claim, we would love to help you! 

At VA Claims Insider, we have gathered an amazing team of ELITE VA Insiders who know the in’s and out’s of the VA system and want to help veterans navigate it successfully. To sign up, just click HERE!

*Chart from the National Archives official site: https://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/medical-records.html

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