How to get old veterans service records
Posted by mandyf on December 27, 2012
Obtaining old veteran’s military service records can be a great way to augment family histories or for use in any number of functions. The trick to getting them lies in who you are in relation to the veteran. As veterans service records, DD-214 form, are closely protected there are some very specific procedures to make the process go smoothly. Follow these few simple tips in the proper procedure and in not time you will have the records you are requesting.
The one trick to obtaining old veterans military service records is that the request must come from or be endorsed by the veteran or their next of kin assuming they are deceased. You will want to obtain a SF-180 form, fill it out completely and properly and return it to the Office of Military Personnel Files (OMPF). The SF-180 itself can be obtained from them, from any number of veterans service organizations located in local Federal buildings such as the Department of Veterans Affairs or in some cases if you are near a VA hospital from the patients advocate. The patients advocate can, depending on workload, sometimes help you fill the form out as well. If you are filling out the SF-180 on your own it is a good idea to make a photo copy to practice on. Original SF-180 forms are only accepted by mail (as their rules dictate) but oddly enough can be faxed as well.
Another option is to go to the National Archives website (archives.gov/military) and use the evetrecs system to generate a request for a DD-214 form as well as medical records. With proper authorization you can obtain any records for a family member as far back as the Revolutionary War. In some cases you can obtain the records directly (At least a DD-214) from the state or county, but generally this is limited to the locality the veteran entered service or discharged to, however if they ever presented for benefits or care from that particular state or county it is possible they may have a copy available.
Requests for veterans records for a person whom is not your next of kin or that you can not obtain the proper signatures for must be processed with an SF-180 form, the evets system will not process these requests. Under these circumstances information can also be requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) although they can and often will restrict certain pieces of data. The remaining option is to hire a search firm in which to track down the records although some can get a bit steep in the fee structure.
In summary, if you are the next of kin you can file a request online through the national Archives and request any records they have on the veteran free of charge. If you are not a family member or next of kin you have to file the SF-180 or request information under FOIA. If you don’t have the proper information such as the veterans social security number, dates of service, etc… a private search firm may be your best option although the fee they charge is generally going to be directly proportionate to the amount of work they must put into the search.