Obtaining Military Records

Obtaining Military Records
A Veteran’s Military Records, especially the Form DD-214 (Report of Separation), is one of the most important documents needed to access many of the Veterans Administration programs, for example, VA Healthcare, VA Loans, VA Education, and VA Burial benefits. At some time in our life, we may find ourselves either having to replace our own records, due to personal loss, or looking for information on another, for a family genealogy or any number of other reasons. How does one go about acquiring Military Records?

Military Records or an Official Military Personnel File (OMPF) can be acquired through the Veterans Service Records Division of the National Archives, or as it is commonly known, the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). Military Records are divided into two categories: Archived Records and Federal Non-Archival Records.

Archived Records are those OMPF’s of persons who separated from military service 62 or more years ago. By law, these records are now a matter of public record and can be obtained by anyone who requests the information. These records belong to the National Archives and are transferred there as the 62nd year of each is realized.

Federal Non-Archival Records are those OMPF’s of persons whose separation date from military service is less than 62 years ago. Full disclosure is given to the Veteran requesting the information, or if the Veteran is deceased, the information can be released to: the surviving spouse, who has not remarried, father, mother, daughter, son, sister or brother. Please Note: Anyone can request a Veteran’s OMPF. Since part of a Veteran’s OMPF is considered public record under the Freedom of Information Act, but most is protected under the Privacy Act, the general public can only acquire a redacted version of a Veteran’s records.

To acquire an OMPF just visit the National Archive website (the URL is provided at the article’s end). I would advise that you read the instructions twice and take notes as to the information you will need to provide. There is a form called an SF180 that must be filled out. It is in Adobe PDF format. The SF180 needs to be printed, signed, dated, and mailed or faxed to the National Personnel Records Center, located at, 1 Archive Drive, St. Louis, MO 63138; fax number (314) 801-0764.

On July 12, 1973, a fire broke out in the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). It is estimated between 16 to 18 million OMPFs were destroyed without back up. The affected records are:

*U.S. Army records with separation dates of November 1, 1912 to January 1, 1960. It is estimated that 80% of those OMPFs were lost.

*U.S. Air Force records with separations dates of September 25, 1947 to January 1, 1964. It is estimated that 75% of those OMPFs were lost.

The NPRC has assured that auxiliary records can be used to reconstruct basic service information.

When requesting a Veteran’s OMPF, you are required to provide the Veteran’s complete name (used while in the service), service number, social security number, branch of the service, dates of service, date and place of birth. If you suspect the Veteran’s records were involved in the fire of 1973, the requester needs to also include the Veteran’s place of discharge, last unit of assignment, and place of entry into the service, if known. Additionally, to ensure the receipt of information, it is strongly recommended to provide the purpose and reason for the request, deadline related to the request and why, and information required other than the DD-214 form, for example medical records.

All requests forms must be signed and dated by the Veteran or their next of kin. If the form is signed by the next of kin, a proof of death must be provided such as a Death Certificate, a letter from the Funeral Home or a published Obituary.

Requests for Federal Non-Archival Records of a Veteran’s OMPF are generally free. Occasionally, there is a small fee assessed but it is rare. If there is a fee involved you will be notified. Requests for Archived Records have a charge for doing the work of researching and printing the information for you. This is because they are public records and the law allows a fee. The current cost of an Archived OMPF of five pages or less is $25.00. The current cost of an Archived OMPF of six pages or more is $70.00 and most OMPFs fall in this category. Please be aware that pricing and the rules governing OMPFs can change, at any time, without warning.

The NPRC receives an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 requests for military records every day. Their goal is to have a request filled within 90 days. The figures shows 92% of the requests are fulfilled within 10 days. In cases of emergency, the goal is 2 days for fulfillment of a request, and for burial requests involving interment, special instructions with contacts can be found on their website. For those Veterans whose records were lost in the 1973 fire, you can expect the reconstruction of your records to exceed six months.

A Veteran’s Military Records, especially the DD-214, is the most important document necessary to access Veterans Administration Benefits. You will never know when you will need it. If yours records are missing or lost, do not delay replacing them. Make sure you have several copies stored in several different locations, just in case….

For further instruction in obtaining military records or to acquire an SF180 form copy and paste the following address into your web browser:


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