Medical records from during service are an important part of VA disability claims. Often (but not always), a claim can hinge on whether a veteran received treatment during service. In this post, we’ll walk through the types of records available, the VA’s duty to gather them for you, and how to access them yourself.

Understanding Military Medical Records

There are two principal categories of military medical records records: service treatment records and inpatient hospitalization records.

  • Service Treatment Records (“STRs”): These include a wide range of documents such as entry and separation examination reports, outpatient treatment records, immunization records, eyewear prescriptions, dental records, lab results, and medication lists. Inpatient hospitalization records, described below, not included in service treatment records, though a summary may be present​​.  Additionally, any records generated by “off base” civilian providers during service are not automatically associated with the STRs.
  • Inpatient Hospitalization Records: Also known as “clinicals,” these records are created by the military treatment facility (MTF) or hospital that provided inpatient treatment. Clinical records are not stored with the individual’s service treatment records and are instead organized under the name of the treating hospital or facility at the NPRC.

For information on service personnel records, see our blog post here. To learn more about VAMC and private health records and how to access them, you can see our post here.

VA’s Duty to Obtain your STRs for You

An important aspect to remember is the VA’s duty to assist claimants in obtaining relevant records. When you file a disability claim, the VA is obligated to help in gathering necessary records, including your STRs. This duty is important because it ensures that veterans do not bear the full burden of collecting complex and sometimes hard-to-access records. The VA usually retrieves the STRs from the appropriate custodian when a compensation claim is first filed. If you have previously filed a claim, the VA might already have received your STRs and included them in your claims file. In such cases, you may only need to request a copy of your claims file from the VA to obtain them. That said, because some records might not have been obtained by the VA, separate requests for these records are sometimes necessary.

If you have already filed for compensation and want to obtain your claims file (or “C-File”), you may submit a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request. To do so, you can file VA Form 20-10206. One of the key benefits of a FOIA request is that VA, like other federal agencies, is required to respond within 20 working days. By contrast to other methods of obtaining your records, this requirement ensures a relatively prompt response.

Accessing Your Records

  • STRs: The location of your service treatment records varies based on your discharge date and branch of service. For earlier periods, these records are maintained by the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), while for others, they are in the custody of the VA’s Records Management Center (RMC). You can find list of locations here. If your records are in the custody of the NPRC, then you can file a SF 180 or submit a request through an online portal.  For you records in the custody of the RMC, you can file a VA Form 3288 or FOIA request (see above). If you were discharged after 2014, you may be able to access your STRs online.
  • Inpatient Hospitalization Records: To obtain your clinical records, you should file a SF 180 or submit a request through an online portal.  Be sure to include both the name of the military treatment facility and the dates of treatment. If the records in question have not yet been retired to the NPRC, however, you may need request your records directly from the MTF at which you were treated. To do so, you can file a DD Form 2870 or ask that VA request them on your behalf.
  • Records not accessible via one of the above options:
    • Reserve and National Guard Records: Generally speaking, records for Reserve and National Guard members are not available through the NPRC. Reserve records should be requested through the respective service department’s reserve headquarters, while National Guard records are maintained at the state level​​.
    • Sensitive Medical Records: Certain records, such as those relating to mental health or substance abuse treatment, are considered sensitive and may require special handling or consent forms for release​​. For this reason, these records are sometimes not automatically included with your STRs.
    • Lost or Destroyed Records: In some cases, records may be reported as lost or destroyed.  If records are unrecoverable, you can request that they be reconstructed through the NPRC​​. Alternate sources like Surgeon General’s Office (SGO) extracts or other secondary evidence may be used.


Accessing your service medical records can be complex and challenging, but also an important step in substantiating your disability claim. As a law office specializing in veterans disability appeals, we are committed to assisting you through this process, and ensuring that the VA does their job correctly. For personalized information about your case, reach out to us directly.

Copyright 2015 - 2023 - Ban Law Office PC

Website by Sites by Sara.

This disclaimer effectively communicates that the information provided is not intended to be construed as legal advice and serves educational purposes only. It clarifies that reading or using the information does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Additionally, it highlights that descriptions of past cases are not indicative of future outcomes. The disclaimer also encourages readers to reach out for further information, emphasizing that contacting the law firm does not automatically create an attorney-client relationship. Overall, it aims to manage expectations and establish boundaries regarding the use of the information provided.