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How to Request Military Medical Records

Learn more about how to request military medical records, including who legally owns them, why you may need them, and what forms you need to request.

You can use Standard Form 180 to request your military medical records as a retired or active service member. This form includes detailed information about your service history and helps the right branch track down your records. Eligible family members may also request a veteran’s military medical records on their behalf.

What Are Military Records and Why Do You Need Them?

Military personnel records are administrative files that may include a report of separation, release papers, orders and endorsements, performance reports, awards, decorations, qualifications and licenses, and security clearance information. In addition, some military records may include current military status, service treatment records, VA benefits, and disabilities.

Veterans or their family members may want to request military records for many reasons, including filing for Veterans Affairs benefits, updating new healthcare providers, or filing for a disability claim. VA disability benefits often require detailed medical treatment records, and service treatment records may serve as legal proof. Veterans may also request military service records when planning for retirement.

Who Can Request Military and Service Records?

The Privacy Act of 1974 protects confidential information and covers information related to military service and medical health records. These privacy laws protect both active duty and retired veterans.

The records of military personnel discharged over 62 years ago are public records. Military records of veterans discharged over 62 years ago are held by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Privacy acts don’t apply to archival records, meaning this information is typically available to the public. Medical records before World War I are available through the National Archives Trust Fund (NATF).

Otherwise, more recent military personnel records are protected by privacy laws. This protection applies to all military departments, including Air National Guard, Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Space Force. Military records of veterans discharged less than 62 years ago are in legal custody of the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. Service medical records are typically held at the veteran’s local clinic. 

Eligible family members, including a surviving spouse, parent, child, or sibling, may request military records on behalf of military personnel. All releases of records must include the veteran’s signature. In addition, if a next of kin or family member requests information after the veteran’s death, they’ll need proof of death of the deceased veteran (DD Form 1300, copy of death certificate, or obituary).

A third-party organization may also assist a veteran in contacting the archival records or records management center to retrieve health information or military record paperwork.

What Forms Do You Need to Request Military or Service Records?

Standard Form 180 is used to request military records. Also referred to as a Request Pertaining to Military Records, this form accompanies a military service record request and helps the center locate your official military personnel file.

The holding agency may deny your request for military records. Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), you have a right to obtain your records. You can file an appeal by sending a letter to the Designated Appeal Official. You have just 90 days to file an appeal after receiving your denial. Marking ‘Freedom of Information Act Appeal’ or ‘FOIA request’ on your envelope can help speed up the appeals process. 

Once the office receives your appeal, they have 20 working days to decide whether to maintain their initial ruling or release your records. In some cases, they may extend the appeals process.

How to Request Military Medical Records

You can request your military personnel records with the following steps:

  1. File Standard Form 180: Try to include as much information as possible on SF 180 since this information helps the agency track down your military records and medical information.

  2. Choose your preferred method of filing: You can file SF 180 online at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) or by mail. You can also send the form by fax, in person, through your state’s agency, or by hiring an independent researcher.

  3. Pay fees: Most military and medical records are available to armed forces members free of charge. Some service providers may charge a nominal fee, but this varies.

  4. Check the status: You can check the status of all veteran requests online.

You likely won’t need a copy of your birth certificate unless you have to prove your identity.

How Long Does It Take to Receive Military Records?

While it varies, receiving your military records should take about ten days. Some medical military records may take slightly longer, and filing online can help speed up the process. How long it has been since your discharge date may also influence how long it takes to receive your veteran’s records.

What Happens if Your Military Records Aren’t Accurate or Are Missing Important Information?

Correcting military records requires that you apply for a review with your military branch. Veterans, survivors, or legal representatives must file a request for correction within three years of discovering the mistake.

A significant number of military records were lost in the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) fire. The St. Louis fire of 1973 ruined records from Army veterans discharged between 1912-1960 and Air Force veterans discharged between 1947-1964. You can request a reconstruction of your military records, even if they were involved in the fire.

How to Update or Correct Military Records

You can file for a Correction of Military Records by filling out and submitting DD Form 293, as long as you were discharged less than 15 years ago. This form is an Application for Correction of Military Record and allows you to request certain changes, like upgraded discharge, promotions, pay, or bonus.

Veterans who were discharged more than 15 years ago should complete DD Form 149. This form is for any request for changes to records other than discharges. In your request for correction, be sure to include reasoning for the correction and any supporting evidence. It can also be helpful to include copies of your military service records.

You may need to request your military medical records if you’re thinking about filing a VA claim or requesting disabled veterans’ benefits. Older records are easier to track down than more recent ones. However, Veterans Affairs makes it easy to fill out and submit your VA form request online with their official websites. Whether you’re an OEF veteran, OIF veteran, marine corps active duty, or former military service of any other branch, a medical evidence development company can help you track down your military medical records and file for disability benefits.

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