National Archives at St. Louis

Access to Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) - for the General Public

(Information for the Veteran or Next-of-kin)

Please note: the following information, regarding access, pertains only to records of veterans who separated from service after 1952. Access records of veterans who separated from service before 1953..

Access to Records, Information for the General Public:

Without the consent of the veteran or next-of-kin, the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) can only release limited information from the Official Military Personnel File (OMPF) to the general public. You are considered a member of the general public if you are not the veteran, asking about a veteran who is of no relation to you or seeking information about a veteran who is a relative but for whom you are not the next-of-kin. The next-of-kin is defined as any of the following: the un-remarried widow or widower, son, daughter, father, mother, brother or sister of the deceased veteran.

Such access is intended to strike a balance between the public's right to obtain information from Federal records, as outlined in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and the veteran's right to privacy as defined by the Privacy Act. Information will not be released if requested for unethical purposes.

Different release procedures apply for records 62 years and older, see Archival Records.

What Type of Information is Releasable to the General Public?

The type of information releasable to the general public from Federal (non-archival) records is dependent upon whether or not a person is requesting information under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or has access authorization from the veteran or next-of-kin.

With the Veteran or Next-of-Kin's authorization:
The veteran (or next-of-kin if the veteran is deceased) must authorize the release of any information not available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In some cases, the veteran may already possess military documents that contain the information you are seeking. The authorization must:

  1. be in writing;

  2. specify what additional information or copies that the NPRC may release to you; and

  3. include the signature of the veteran or next-of-kin. A sample authorization is included for your review.

Please note: Next-of-kin must also provide proof of death of the veteran, such as a copy of the death certificate, a letter from the funeral home or a published obituary.

Without the Veteran or Next-of-Kin's authorization:
Without the consent of the veteran or next-of-kin, the NPRC can only release limited information from non-archival Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) to the general public. Click here for a list of information available under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. Greater access is granted for records 62 years and older, see Archival Records.

How do I request copies of records?

Federal law [5 USC 552a(b)] requires that all requests for records and information be submitted in writing. Each request must be signed (in cursive) and dated (within the last year).

Certain basic information needed to locate military service records, includes: the veteran's complete name as used in service; service number; Social Security Number (if applicable); branch of service; dates of service; date and place of birth. For records affected by the 1973 Fire, additional information, such as place of discharge; last assigned unit; and place of entry into service may be useful.

To access military service records, requesters may:

When sending a request via postal mail or fax, please use the Standard Form (SF) 180, Request Pertaining to Military Records. Although not mandatory, using the SF-180 is the recommended method to send a request for military service information. This form captures all the necessary information to locate a record. Provide as much information on the form as possible and send copies of any service documents that you may have.

Follow the instructions for preparing the SF-180. Check the Records Location Table and submit your request to the appropriate address.

Note: For the issuance and replacement of medals and awards, do not use the addresses on the SF-180. See Military Awards and Decorations for additional information on how and where to submit correspondence for issuance or replacement.

Costs: The NPRC processes most requests for limited information without cost. However, it is possible that a fee may be charged if the researching, processing and photocopying becomes excessive. If your request involves a service fee, you will be notified as soon as that determination is made. See Archival Records for information on archival holdings and associated copy fees: the NARA fee schedule authorizes the Agency to collect fees from the public for copies of archival records (44 USC 2116c and 44 USC 2307).

Those who have authorization from the veteran or the veteran's next-of-kin may request an appointment with the Federal Records Center Research Room to view the records in person.

Emergency Requests and Deadlines:

If your request is urgent (e.g. upcoming surgery, funeral, etc.) and there is a deadline associated with your request, please provide this information in the "Comments" section of eVetrecs or in the "Purpose" section of the SF-180 and fax it to our Customer Service Team at (314) 801-0764. Our goal is to complete all urgent requests within two working days. However, in some instances we can complete requests the same day if necessary. Please contact our customer service staff at (314) 801-0800 if you have questions or require same day service. Due to the large number of calls we receive at this number, hold times are often long. However, once you reach a technician they will be happy to assist you with emergency service.

If your burial request involves internment at a Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery, contact the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at (800) 535-1117 or visit their website http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/burial_benefits/. We work directly with the Veterans Affairs staff to obtain records to verify service for burial benefits. If the veteran is not going to be interned at a National Cemetery, the requester may fax the SF-180 or signature page from eVetRecs (including signature of the next of kin and proof of death) to the Customer Service Team at (314) 801-0764. If your request involves the burial of a Marine Corps veteran, you may also contact the USMC Liaison Officer at (314) 538-2344.

NOTE:The 1973 Fire at the National Personnel Records Center damaged or destroyed 16-18 million Army and Air Force records that documented the service history of former military personnel discharged from 1912-1964. Although the information in many of these primary source records was either badly damaged or completely destroyed, often alternate record sources can be used to reconstruct the service of the veterans impacted by the fire. Sometimes we are able to reconstruct the service promptly using alternate records that are in our holdings, but other times we must request information from other external agencies for use in records reconstruction. In some instances, therefore, requests that involve reconstruction efforts may take several weeks to a month to complete.

Response Time and Checking the Status of a Request:

Response time varies and is dependent upon the complexity of your request, the availability of records and our workload. Please do not send a follow-up request before 90 days have elapsed, as it may cause further delays. While the NPRC works actively to respond to each request in a timely fashion, the Center receives approximately 4,000 - 5,000 requests per day. We are responding to requests for separation documents within 10 days about 92% of the time. However, requests that involve reconstruction efforts due to the 1973 Fire, or older records which require extensive search efforts, may take 6 months or more to complete.

Checking the Status of Your Request by E-mail: Once you have allowed sufficient time for us to receive and process your request (about 10 days), you may check the status of your request by e-mail through our NPRC Customer Service Center at mpr.status@nara.gov. Please provide the request number if you have one, the name, address and phone number of the requester and the veteran's branch of service to aid us in finding your request in our system. You will receive a return e-mail from us with a projected completion date for your request.

Special Note on Calling by Phone: If you have already submitted a request and need to know its status you may speak to a Customer Service Representative. Staff is available to take your call as early as 7:00 am CST and as late as 5:00 pm CST. Our peak calling times are weekdays between 10:00 am CST and 3:00 pm CST:

Telephone: 314-801-0800
Telephone (Toll Free) 1-866-272-6272

Special Note on Contacting by E-mail: Requests for military personnel records or information from them cannot be accepted by e-mail at this time. The Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. 552a) and Department of Defense directives require a written request, signed and dated, to access information from military personnel records. Our e-mail address should only be used to request general information (hours of operations, procedures and forms) or to submit compliments, complaints or concerns.

Please review these web pages for information before contacting us.

NOTE: If you send messages using WebTV or a free e-mail service, you will not receive our response if your mailbox is full. Messages sent to full mailboxes are returned to us as "undeliverable." You may wish to include your mailing address in your message so that we may respond via the U.S. Postal Service.

"NARA ensures, for the Citizen and the Public Servant, for the President and the Congress and the Courts, ready access to essential evidence."

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