How to Obtain Your VA Records

You have the right to your claims file, medical records, personnel records, incident reports, and toxic exposure reports. Here's how to get them.

By , J.D. · The Colleges of Law

Even though the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has a duty to help service members obtain military medical records in support of their applications for disability benefits, there are reasons why some veterans would want to request VA medical records on their own. 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. Additionally, veterans may also wish to obtain medical records in support of their request for a military records correction or discharge upgrade.

Why Are Your Veterans Medical Records Important?

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 in order 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.

How To Get Your VA Medical Records

Veterans have a few methods they can use when requesting medical records from the VA.

Submit VA Form 10-5345a

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 send it to the VA medical records fax number at the VAMC where you received treatment.

Getting Your VA Medical Records Online

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.

Requesting Military Medical Records From the National Personnel Records Center

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 aren't stored permanently.

How to Request NPRC Records

If you need to make an NPRC records request, you can use the following methods:

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.

Where to Submit an NPRC Request

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]

How to Get Military Medical Records From a Specific Branch

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.

For Army medical records requests, contact:

U.S. Army Human Resources Command
1600 Spearhead Division Avenue Dept 420
Fort Knox, KY 40122-5402
Telephone: 888-276-9472

For Marine Corps records requests, contact:

Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps
Personnel Management Support Branch (MMSB-10)
2008 Elliot Road
Quantico, VA 22134-5030
Telephone: 800-268-3710

For Navy records requests, contact:

Navy Personnel Command (PERS-312E)
5720 Integrity Drive
Millington, TN 38055-3120
Telephone: 901-874-4885

For Coast Guard records requests, contact:

Commander CG Personnel Service Center
US Coast Guard Stop 7200
2703 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE
Washington, DC 20593-7200
Fax: 202-372-8440

For Air Force records requests, contact:

Air Force Personnel Center
550 C Street West, Suite 19
Randolph AFB, TX 78150-4721
Telephone: 800-525-0102

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.

Getting Private Medical Records

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 access to your private treatment records.

What if I Don't Receive My 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 aren't satisfied with a FOIA office's initial determination, or
  • you disagree with the withholding of information or the failure to locate additional responsive records by the VA.

You must file a FOIA appeal within 90 days of the VA's initial determination.

Requesting Your VA Claims File

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.

What Are the VA's Duties to Help You With Your Disability Case?

Under the Veterans Claims Assistance Act of 2000 (VCAA), vets have the right to receive assistance from the VA to help with their application and gather evidence to support their claim. The VA's duty extends to getting records from private doctors or hospitals where you've received treatment as well as records from government facilities, such as VA medical centers.

The VA Must Help Obtain Records

The VA must assist you in obtaining the necessary records for your VA disability claim, including repeated attempts to retrieve your records (unless it becomes apparent that the records don't exist or can't be reasonably obtained). If the VA can't get certain records needed to support your claim, the agency is required to inform you of this fact

The VA Must Notify Veterans of What They Need to Complete An Application

If you submit an incomplete application, the VA has to tell you what additional information they need. For instance, if you apply for service-connected disability compensation but don't provide any information about the in-service incident that you believe caused your disability, then the VA must send you a letter and explain what information about the incident is missing.Or, if you make a simple error (like forgetting to sign your application) the VA will let you know you need to sign it before it can be processed. This duty keeps the VA from rejecting your application and telling you to start all over with a new one.

The VA Must Consider All Possible Claims Suggested By the Evidence

Under 38 U.S.C. § 7104(a), the VA must consider all the possible ways that you might be entitled to claims for compensation based on your medical records. At a bare minimum, this means that your file contains "reasonable evidence" about the disabling condition and a possible incident to establish service-connection.

This means that even if you don't claim a specific disability, such as hearing loss, if your file contains evidence that you have hearing problems and were exposed to loud noise during your service, the VA must evaluate whether you could get a disability rating for hearing loss.

The VA Must Provide a Medical Examination

You're entitled to have the VA schedule a medical examination if your records suggest that you have a diagnosis of a current disability with ongoing symptoms that may be related to your medical service. If the VA thinks there isn't enough information in your records to reach a conclusion, they can schedule a medical examination for you in order to fill in the gaps.

What if the VA Fails to Meet These Duties?

If the VA fails to meet the above duties and your application for benefits is subsequently denied, this can be grounds for an appeal. If you need to appeal, consider contacting an attorney experienced in veterans law.

Updated March 5, 2024

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