Veterans may have reasons why they want to request VA medical records on their own, even though the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has a duty to help veterans obtain military medical records to support their applications for disability benefits. For example, veterans submitting fast-track claims should try to submit their VA records along with their application or as soon as possible after submitting their application. Or, veterans may also want to obtain medical records to support their request for a military records correction or discharge upgrade.
When you apply for VA disability benefits, the agency will review your entire medical history—including your civilian and military medical records—to determine whether your disability is service-connected. This is important because, to receive VA disability compensation, you must show that your current condition is related to an event that happened during your military service. Medical records can also help document your symptoms and treatment over time.
Veterans have a few methods they can use when requesting medical records from the VA.
If you've been treated at a VA Medical Center (VAMC), you can request your medical records directly by filling out and submitting VA Form 10-5345a, Individuals' Request for a Copy of Their Own Health Information. You can submit this form in person, by mail, or by fax to the medical records department at the VAMC where you received treatment.
You can also access your VA medical records online by creating an account through the VA's My HealtheVet portal. Before you can create an account, you must first be registered within the VA healthcare system. Once registered, veterans can log into their My HealtheVet account and access their VA medical records, including their health summaries, medications, immunization records, and test results.
The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) is part of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). NPRC holds records for veterans discharged or retired from the military. For the most part, these records aren't stored electronically—they're on paper and are stored in boxes.
The most common records requested from the NPRC are service-related medical and personnel records, including DD-214s. These are typically the most important records for a veteran to retrieve. But the NPRC holds other types of records, including ship logs, unit rosters, pay records, unit morning reports, and others. It's important to keep in mind that these records are not stored permanently.
NPRC records can be requested:
To request records regarding time spent in combat, transport between assignments, or hospitalization, the NPRC will require specific details to be provided so that the records can be located appropriately. For example, you'll need to tell the NPRC the name of any hospital where you were admitted for treatment during service or indicate in detail where you served in combat.
The completed Standard Form 180 or letter can be faxed to (314) 801-9195 or mailed to:
National Personnel Records Center
(Military Personnel Records)
1 Archives Drive
St. Louis, Missouri 63138
You can contact the NPRC by phone at (314) 801-0800. Or you can email the Military Personnel Records Center (MPRC) of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) at [email protected]
Sometimes it can be more efficient to check the location where medical records are stored— based on your branch and time of service—and submit a records request directly to that location. The types of records held by each military branch vary but tend to include personal records, operational reports, and casualty records.
The process of making a records request to a specific military branch's archive department is the same as making a records request to the NPRC. You can write a letter asking for information, or you can complete and mail in the Standard Form SF-180. The contact information for the medical records department of each branch is below.
U.S. Army Human Resources Command
1600 Spearhead Division Avenue Dept 420
Fort Knox, KY 40122-5402
Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps
Personnel Management Support Branch (MMSB-10)
2008 Elliot Road
Quantico, VA 22134-5030
Navy Personnel Command (PERS-312E)
5720 Integrity Drive
Millington, TN 38055-3120
Commander CG Personnel Service Center
US Coast Guard Stop 7200
2703 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE
Washington, DC 20593-7200
Air Force Personnel Center
550 C Street West, Suite 19
Randolph AFB, TX 78150-4721
Be as detailed as possible in your records request. The VA may ask you to provide more information (such as enlistment dates) in order to process your request, or you may be redirected to another archive location that is more likely to hold the requested information.
You can obtain copies of your medical records from private doctors or hospitals by completing your healthcare provider's release of information form at their office.
Alternatively, you can submit VA Forms 21-4142, Authorization to Disclose Information to the VA, and 21-4142a, General Release of Medical Provider Information, to the VA. These forms allow the VA to request your records from your doctor on your behalf. Be aware that both VA Forms 21-4142 and 21-4142a must be completed together for the VA to get access to your private treatment records.
Gathering medical records can be a time-consuming process. But if weeks and months go by and you haven't received the requested records, you can file a Freedom of Information (FOIA) Request. (More information on filing a FOIA request can be found here.)
The VA is required by law to provide a response to a FOIA request within 20 working days. Hopefully, after 20 days, you will receive some or all the records you requested. If the VA needs additional time to process your request, they may ask for an extension.
You have the right to file a FOIA appeal if:
You must file a FOIA appeal within 90 days of the VA's initial determination.
If you've previously applied for VA benefits, you can request a copy of your claims file (also called a C-file) from the VA Regional Office that processed your application for benefits. To get your claims file, submit Form 3288, Request for and Consent to Release of Information From Individual's Records. The claims file is important to have if you're denied benefits and need to file an appeal.
It can take many months to obtain your C-file electronically, and you may have to file a FOIA request to finally get it. But if you go in person to your regional office, you may be able to view and get a copy of what's in your paper file on the same day.
Updated May 8, 2023