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Records Request Form
By Ray Parrish
VA claims or discharge upgrade situations often require veterans to provide documentary evidence that exists somewhere in government files. These records can verify the facts of military service and medical treatment. They will help your current doctors provide accurate diagnosis and treatment. Veterans with less-than-honorable discharges can get VA benefits if a psychological evaluation is submitted that explains that the veteran was "insane" (using the VA definition) at the time of the misconduct and supports that conclusion by referring to these old military or medical records. If you run into problems getting records, Congressional offices can help.
Often several requests will be necessary before you finally get the records you want. Some records offices will refer your request to the appropriate office on your behalf. Just as often, you'll have to fill out another form and submit it to a different office. Each year more records are discovered, declassified and released. For example, the VA is forced to acknowledge herbicide exposure to increasing numbers of veterans as new ships and bases are added to the list where Agent Orange was stored, transported or used.
SF 180, Standard Form 180, Request Pertaining to Military Records, is the most used NA (National Archives) form and has changed over the years. The "current" version says it "Expires 10/31/2011." Section II, "Information and/or Documents Requested," (with the boxes to check off down the left side) is the important part. Unless you want ONLY the DD214, skip down and check off "All documents in Official Military Personnel File, OMPF," which will include certified copies of the DD214. The next box is "Medical Records" and if you can read the small print there, they say they won't send you "hospital" records unless you write in the year, month and place of the treatment. (Refer to the reverse side for a chart showing if your "service treatment records" have been given to the VA. If so, use form 3288, see below.) The last box is "other." Records used to support "administrative" discharges can be had if you write in after "other": "Case Separation File." You can check the box "other" to request court martial records. They don't have them, but they will direct you to the current address of the right legal office.
NA Form 13036 Authorization for Release of Military Medical Patient Records is used for "sensitive" records that they will not release directly to the veteran because it may "adversely affect the individual." The form allows the veteran to have these military records (such as mental health, drug/alcohol rehab, STD/HIV) sent directly to your medical providers.
VA Form 3288, Request For and Consent to Release of Information from Individual's Records can be used to request most records held by the VA. If you want a copy of your VA "claim file," address it to your local VA Regional Office. The claim file will also contain the military medical records if they were sent to the VA. If you want your VA medical records, send form 3288 to your VA Medical Center.
VA Form 10-5345 Request For and Consent to Release of Medical Records or Health Information Protected by 38 USC 7332 is used by the VA to release their "sensitive" records on you (as described above) directly to your health care providers. Be sure the appropriate boxes are checked off under "Veteran's Request."
Joint Services Records Research Center (JSRRC), the Marine Corps Archives and Special Collections have unit records, morning reports, ships' logs, casualty reports and every other scrap of paper floating around a unit clerk's desk. The VA has to request relevant records from them as part of their "duty to assist" if you have a diagnosis of PTSD and need verification of traumatizing "stressors." They don't use a specific form, so write a letter with as much place and date details as possible.
Be sure to make photocopies of records requests before mailing the original.
Ray Parrish is the Benefits Director at VVAW's Military and Veterans Counseling Service.