When it comes to being a veteran, having your military records on file is important. However, if your paper documents become lost you can access your records online. Almost all government VA websites require you to log in with your DoD information if you are ordering them online. A lot of veterans have a hard time getting their records, but we’re going to fix that today!
Are My Military Records Public?
Yes, your records are available to the public, but not in the way you may think. Your records are not readily available for everyone to scrutinize your pertinent personal information, unless you’re next-of-kin to a veteran or a deceased veteran. The only people who can legally gain access to military service records are:
- You, requesting them for yourself.
- A military widow who hasn’t remarried.
- The father, mother, son, daughter, immediate sister, or immediate brother (all blood relatives) of a deceased veteran.
Therefore, if you’re just looking to get your records and are worried about others being able to access them, trust me, they have a lot of work to go through to illegally obtain those documents. Some people are worried that their employers can access their military records. The truth is, they can’t. Any government request must be approved by the veteran or service member themselves in order for any employer to receive military records. If someone requests military records without your (or your family’s) consent, they can only get extremely limited OMPF (Official Military Personnel File) information, keeping your privacy secure, as mentioned in the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act.
What Kind of Information Can the Public Get?
The information that can be released to the public depends on the Freedom of Information Act, and whether the person has permission from a veteran or a next of kin. This means, that if someone hires someone else to get their file for them, everything has to be in writing and signed (possibly notarized if the authorizer is alive), and for deceased veterans, the next-of-kin also has to provide a death certificate, a funeral home letter or even an obituary from the newspaper.
Without consent, some can access your general DoD photograph, awards and decorations, name, branch of service, final duty status, final rank, and a few other items. As stated though, these must not violate the Privacy Act. If a service member is deceased (such as a Killed In the Line of Duty member), people can do their research and get the place of birth, geographical area and date of death, and place of burial.
How to Access My Military Records
There are a few primary ways to go about accessing your military records. Fortunately, if you’re the veteran this is pretty simple. Just forgive the National Personnel Records Center for not paying for postage and making you print out a lengthy form to request your records. Either way, you can go there and do the following.
- Begin the form online from the link above.
- Follow the steps and fill out a detailed form, which will create a PDF or allow you to directly print it to be mailed (or Faxed).
- After this, you can choose to mail or fax your form to the Archives Office.
- If you need to check on a request, scroll down to the Frequently Asked Questions section where it says “How Can I Check on the Status of My Request?”
- Click the plus sign, then click “Online Status Update Request Form” to go to the request. Provide the information listed here, and be sure that it is at least 10 days for the Archive’s department to process your request.
Other Ways To Get Your Records
There are many other ways to get your own military records. If you have a DoD eBenefits login username and password, or even a CAC card, you can obtain your military service records by writing a letter to the Archive’s office, visiting the Records Center, contacting your state or federal government official, or even hiring someone else to do it.
Fortunately for you, there is another way you can get a lot of your general information if you don’t mind having an over-sized PDF on your plate. This is all thanks to a website called milConnect. Here you can request your DD214 (or 15), report of separation, other papers, medical records, and much more. The biggest downside though, is that on the PDF they’re all “images”, so you have to print and go through your information manually. After a while, they’ll sign you out, so be sure that you make sure all information is up to date when you request these records.
- Sign in first. If you don’t sign in, you won’t be able to proceed.
- On the top left of the main page once you’re signed in, you can download the Defense Personnel Records Information (DPRIS) from the menu under Correspondence/Documentation.
- Choose your Personnel File, and select Request My Personnel file.
- This will bring a long list of checkboxes in the Document Index section, and you can choose literally everything.
Note: If you aren’t an officer, don’t download the officer personnel sheet… You weren’t an officer.
- Then, choose the Create and Send Request button, and you’re good to go. It generally takes only a matter of minutes, and you’ll see your request on the list of requests. If after about 10 minutes, you don’t see a download button, click on the Personnel File tab again, and then click the button to download individual records. Of course, you can always choose to download all (the best bet).
Final Thoughts: What Records Should You Download?
Honestly, it all depends on your situation. If you’re an injured veteran who needs your information to appeal a case, or more, go ahead and download everything. Of course, keep in mind the officer documentation we mentioned above. Don’t lie about what you need to request, as this won’t help your case. But it’s always a good general rule to have everything at your side, and of course, this will ensure that all of your documents are squared away.
Don’t forget that as a veteran, you can also download your VA medical records online if you’re set up on the myHealtheVet website, Get your benefits letter directly from the VA, or even get access to other records and letters on the VA.GOV website itself. Always be sure that you save everything in a handy binder, and store it neatly in a lock-box or a fireproof safe. Some veterans store this information digitally as well, and some have been known to even use a safety deposit box. This seems far-fetched, and you’re not being paranoid – you’re being protective about your information.
Justin Williams is a certified Microsoft Specialist and U.S. Army Veteran. Serving in 2008, he was a Multichannel Transmission Systems Operator with the 15th Signal Brigade. After an Honorable Discharge, he struggled to get access to military benefits for service-related injuries. Justin has committed to helping other veterans navigate the system and get the most out of their hard-earned veteran status.
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