Military Personnel Records become “Archival” 62 years after date of discharge, date of retirement, resignation, or date of death in service. Some services for these Veterans/Retirees/Next of Kin in obtaining records and services change. Archival records are usually available to anyone for a fee, but requests from the veteran/retiree involving federal benefits are usually done at no charge. (So VA home loan -federal- is no fee, while veteran license plate -state- would require a fee payment to get a copy of a military record.
See: Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF), Archival Holdings
The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) is a different entity than the National Archives at St. Louis (NASL). NPRC has non-archival records, while NASL has the records when they become archival. Both NPRC and NASL are located in the same building – we are sorry that this may be confusing.
The military Separation Document (DD Form 214 or equivalent) is the key to obtaining benefits. The DD Form 214 was used for separations/retirements starting in 1950. Prior to that time, various forms were used; War Department Adjutant General Office Form 53-55 (WD AGO 53-55), for example. NPRC refers to all these by the generic term “Sep Docs” meaning Separation Documents.
Only ask for what is needed. The military service departments direct how NPRC processes requests. Sep Docs are processed faster than requests for other items. Asking for a Sep Doc and something else at the same time, may result in increased processing time.
Be specific. If a certain type of record is needed, ask for it and be descriptive. Example:
"I need my Inpatient Medical record from May 1968, at Womack Army Hospital, at Fort Bragg, NC, for knee surgery;"
"send me medical stuff."
Depending on your workload and office equipment, it may be helpful to assist the requester with filling on the eVetrecs request online in your office, then printing the signature page, having the requester sign it, and fax it to NPRC for them. Alternatively, you can print the information neatly on the Standard Form 180, have the requester sign it, and then fax it to NPRC. You can also give the requester a current version of the Standard Form 180 and let them fill it out and mail or fax it.
NPRC does not have all military personnel records. NPRC should have records as follows:
US Coast Guard – Veterans/Retirees/Died in Service
US Navy – Veterans/Retirees/Died in Service whose service ended prior to 1995
US Marine Corps – Veterans/Retirees/Died in Service whose service ended prior to 1999
US Air Force – Veterans/Retirees whose service ended prior to 2005
US Army – NPRC has (or can access) Veterans/Retirees/Died in Service up to present.
If NPRC doesn’t have the record or access to the record, we will refer the request to the proper office. This can take additional time. So it is best to submit the request directly to the right office. The locations are on the Standard Form 180.
- Separation Date/Retirement Date/Discharge Date/Release From Active Duty (REFRAD) Date. These dates are not always the same thing. For determining a record location, the final date of separation/retirement/death in service is needed. Many veterans will say there were discharged, but are really stating their REFRAD date. For example, the current Military Service Obligation (MSO) is 8 years, in the 1960’s it was 6 years, during wartime for draftees it was for the duration plus 6 months unless released sooner.
So if the veterans says “I was discharged in 1993”, most likely what is meant is he/she was released from active duty in 1993 (most likely after 3 years of service), and transferred to the inactive reserve for the rest of the 8 year MSO. He/she was actually separated in 1998 – which may make a difference as to the record location.
- NPRC only has what the military service departments provided. If we did not get it, then we don’t have it. Sometimes there are other sources of information, such as Morning Reports for Army and Air Force personnel.
It is best to submit using eVetrecs because a tracking request number will be provided. Checking the Status of Your Request by E-mail: Once you have allowed sufficient time for us to receive and process your mailed or faxed request (about 10 days), you may check the status of your request by e-mail through our NPRC Customer Service Center at email@example.com. 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.