The success of your claim(s) is often dependent on how successful you are in locating records critical to proving these claims. This is especially true if you have more historic claims. Here the challenge is locating service treatment records that typically go the essence of you what you need to prove in your case. Below are some strategies and agencies to consult when you need to find the records to prove your case. VA cases are paper driven, so to prove your case you need to locate the relevant documents. It is true that the VA is required to help you find your records, however we have provided ideas on how to get these records yourself which may reduce the time needed to prove your case.
Will the VA help me to find my records?
Technically yes. Under the Veterans Claims Assistance Act the VA must “make reasonable efforts to obtain relevant records”. This is regardless if the records are help privately or by other federal sources. The claimant only needs to “adequately identify” the record and give VA permission to obtain those records. The VA has the duty to put forth an effort so strong that any further effort would be “futile”.
This is the black letter law on what the VA must do. The Veteran may rely on these rules and force the VA to obtain these records. Practically, it often makes sense to get these records yourself not only because it will save you a significant amount of time in terms of claim processing, but also often the VA effort to get these records may be less than a full effort. Not because the VA doesn’t care or isn’t required, but its simply an issue of staffing constraints. Still though this VA duty is a powerful rule since it can often be the basis for appeal since under the Veteran’s Claim Assistance Act since they are required to get these records and often do not. This duty is implicated under 38 U.S.C. 5103A.
The in person option for VA medical records
If you live in Utah go to the Salt Lake City VA hospital, and the VA’s release of information staff can assist you with obtaining medical records at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. It is located in building 14, basement room BB1B in Salt Lake City, Utah 500 Foothill Drive. You may also use the U.S. Department of Veteran’s locator located here.
Requesting VA Medical Records Online
You can register and verify your identity by going through authentication at the bottom of the website below. You may then view, print, or download VA Medical Records here.
Military and Service Treatment Records (STRs)
The service treatment records are often found in your C file (VA claims folder) but sometimes not due to the often cited reason of a fire at the St. Louis archival fire in the early 1970s. These records are stored at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Mo. This center generally houses service personnel and medical records. However, does not house the inpatient service records if those exist. Most of these records are not electronic but are instead paper records. The STR’s usually include outpatient but not inpatient records. It is very important to inquire whether inpatient records are relevant in your case. Any records relevant to in service incurrence of an injury are relevant as well as any discharge exam.
Online Requests to the NPRC
Records can be requested online.
A written signature is required when requesting your records online. You can mail, or fax the signature to the address you are given after requesting the records online. A next of kin may request records this way, but a living veteran must request records using the standard form 180. It is important to remember that inpatient records, combat records, or other records will likely not be sent if they are not specifically requested. If you need impatient records, then you need to specifically indicate at which hospital you were treated and the specific dates.
If the veteran has an attorney the request can be returned to either if the veteran signs section III.3. If after 3-6 weeks no response is given then another request marked as such should be sent. Or if an incomplete response is sent back the problem should be explained in a letter. Calling (314) 801-0800 you can check the status of the request.
Mailed Requests to the NPRC
You can request the records by mail using Standard Form 180 found here.
You will need access to a printer and Adobe Acrobat Reader software in order to print and fill out the three page request. Review the tables on page three to locate the address in which you need to send the request. The location is based on branch of service, dates of separation, and the type of record you are requesting.
You can fax the Standard Form 180 to 314-801-9195.
Is there a cost for my records?
Usually there is no cost for basic military personnel and medical records information. If there is a cost, the center will contact you. Requesting official military personnel files by mail or fax is $25 flat if the records are under five pages. For records that are six pages or more the cost is $70 flat. Most records are six or more pages. For veterans of exceptional prominence, war heroes, political leaders, cultural figures, celebrities, or entertainers, the cost is $.80 per page($20 minimum). Not all records are available to the public, and some are not available in digital format. The cost ranges from $20-$250.
It is important to request a fee waiver pursuant to the Privacy Act and the FOIA. 32 C.F.R 286.28(d) or 310.20(d). There is also a specific provision for homeless veterans so they can get expedited treatment of their DD 214. This request can be faxed to 314-801-9195.
Checking on Status of Request
After a minimum of ten days, you may check on the status of your request at or you may contact the NPRC Customer Service Line at 314-801-0800.