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5. Your Military Service Records
In addition to requesting a DD-214 you can also request military service records and official military personnel files (OMPF) from the National Personnel Records Center using the SF-180 or using their web portal. Military personnel records are essentially the veterans administrative file and usually contain the following information:
- Duty stations and assignments
- Training, qualification and performance
- Awards and medals
- Disciplinary actions
- Emergency data
- Administrative remarks
- Separation/discharge/retirement (including DD-214)
For many veterans their OMPF will also contain their military medical records. This is because the personnel records and the medical records were retired to the Archives at the same time. This practice changed for most service branches in 1992. No matter when or where a veteran served it is always recommend that a request specifically state what is sought. For example if you would like a copy of the personnel record and military medical records specifically state that in your request or check the appropriate box on the online application or SF 180. With the exception of inpatient military medical records requests for a copy of the OMPF and military medical records are made in the same manner as a request for a DD-214.
Time and time again the VA will wrongfully deny a claim for compensation because they or the veteran could not locate their military medical records. Often times this is because the request for military medical records did not specifically request inpatient medical records. Inpatient medical records are treated differently than outpatient medical records. This subtle distinction has lost many veterans their well deserved benefits.
Inpatient or Hospital Records
Inpatient records, also referred to as clinical records or hospital inpatient records, are generated when a service member is admitted to a hospital or spends the night in a hospital. These records are not stored with the veterans other military medical records. Inpatient records are stored under the name of the treating facility. As a result any request for inpatient medical records must include the name of the hospital, month of treatment, year of treatment and the veterans name and social security or service number. These records can also be requested following the previously discussed methods.
The St. Louis Fire
From time to time a veteran, their next of kin or the VA will make a records request to the Archives and they are informed the records were destroyed in a fire. It is possible a veterans records were destroyed by fire. On July 12, 1973 a catastrophic fire ravaged the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). The fire destroyed between 16 and 18 million military personnel files. Approximately 80% of Army records for personnel discharged November 1, 1912, to January 1, 1960 were lost. Additionally 75% of Air Force records for personnel discharged, September 25, 1947, to January 1, 1964 with names alphabetically after Hubbard, James E. were also lost.
If a veteran falls into one of the above categories and are told their records were destroyed by fire it is entirely possible that their records were destroyed. If however a veteran was still on active duty on July 12, 1973 and they are told their records were destroyed in the fire there is a serious problem. If they were on active duty during the fire then their records had not yet been retired to the Archives thus they could not have been destroyed in the fire. Likewise if the veteran served in a branch other than the Army or the Air Force. All too often we find the VA telling claimants for benefits that their records were destroyed in the fire when their records were not even physically located at the storage location at the time of the fire.
Replacement Medals, Ribbons and Awards
In addition to requesting documents veterans and their next of kin can also request one free set of replacement medals, ribbons and awards. Although it is not mandatory it is suggested you first obtain a copy of the DD-214. Reason being is because block number 24 on the DD-214 lists decorations, medals, badges, commendations, citations and campaign ribbons awarded or authorized. If you can provide the Archives with the DD-214 it makes their search quicker and easier. It also notifies you what was awarded to the veteran so you can make certain you received everything you are entitled to. Here again requests for replacement medals, awards and decorations can be made in the same manner discussed above.