How to request your military records (have a seat)
Alaska Older Veterans Report
Important disclaimer: If you are a passenger in a moving vehicle and are reading this article to the driver, then stop reading out loud immediately. If this article is read in a public-radio-like monotonous voice, it could lead to drowsiness, possibly resulting in injury due to a car wreck.
You have decided you need some benefit you have earned as a result of your military service. Sure, I know you were given your DD-214 upon separation and have it stored in the same place as your birth certificate, marriage license and deeds of trust like you were instructed to do during out processing But this article is just in case you weren’t paying attention at the out processing briefing and have no earthly idea where your DD-214 is. So here is how to request a copy.
The DD 214 is a separation document which is the ground zero paperwork for any and all records and benefits to which you are entitled. I will spare you the litany of electronic methods available because I have found these “shortcuts” to be overlapping, ineffective and in most cases inaccurate. Forget the bridge to nowhere, the Feds could have built a bridge to Asia for less money than it has spent on electronic files since 2000.
I suggest using snail mail (US Postal Service) since the few extra days will be the least of your troubles, and mail a SF-180 (which can be obtained online) to request your DD 214 and your OMPF (Official Military Personnel Files) from NPRC (National Personnel Records Center) in St. Louis, MO, unless the VA has them. You can fax your request to NPRC at 314-801-9195 (on your nickel).
Are you still awake?
The NPRC boosts an impressive self-proclaimed and unaudited 92 percent response time, unless of course your records pre-date the fire of 1973 (a date/excuse you will hear within 5 seconds of them answering the phone). NPRC claims to have a response time of 10 days and suggests you call another NON-toll free number (314-801-0800) to check up on your progress. Pre-fire records will take up to six months.
The cost for your records is free for basic OMPRs to the service member UNLESS you need Archival OMPFs, which cost you $25 or more depending on the length of the records. Most OMPFs fall into the flat rate charge of $70 for records of six pages or more. Go figure.
Are you surprised so far?
All the NPRC needs to locate your file is some basic information like your name used while in the military, service or Social Security number and branch and dates of service. However, if you fall into the pre 1973 fire category, then additionally NPRC will need your place of discharge, last unit of assignment, place of entry into the service and name of your most favorite drill instructor during basis training (OK, I made the last one up).
If you are requesting records for a deceased family member and are the next of kin, you will need a copy of the death certificate, letter from the funeral home or a published obituary authenticated by the Chief of Police. (I’m sorry. I made the Chief of Police thing up too).
The archival records prior to 1953 are open to the public but the fees still apply. There is nothing more refreshing than to see a federal paper-pushing agency whose entire function is to archive service records trying to balance their books by charging a fee. You know how nefarious service members can be in their pursuit of their records. Does anyone remember the Poll Tax?
The NPRC Fax number is 314-801-9195.
The mailing address is: National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records, 1 Archives Drive, St. Louis MO 63138.
So just to recap the procedure: If you need your DD 214 ASAP use eVetrecs to submit the request or mail or fax SF-180 (available in PDF format if you have Adobe Acrobat Reader) IAW 5 USC 552 a(b) which mandates the request to be signed in cursive and dated within the last year to the NPRC. If it is an urgent request due to a funeral, surgery or etc., then fill out the “Comments” section of the eVetrecs or the “Purpose” section of the SF-180, unless it is for a burial interment at a Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery, which requires you to contact the VA Customer Service Team unless your deceased service member was a Marine. In that case you would need to contact the USMC Liaison Officer. However, if the service member was separated 62 plus years ago, then you must contact the National Archives and Records Administration or NARA. Any questions?
Or call Lisa, Mark or Don, which would be my first choice.
Until next month, be safe.
Mike Dryden is a retired Army Major and current board member of Older Persons Action Group, Inc.