You may have heard rumors of how long it takes to obtain your service medical records (SMR) from the National Archives. Unfortunately, those rumors appear correct. It can take up to a year, given the backlog.
Don’t let that deter you. If you haven’t ordered your SMR, do so now. The good news is that there are a couple of ways to do it. Both are easy.
Request Service Medical Records through Fax
You can request your SMR by obtaining Standard Form 180 (SF-180) online and faxing it to the National Personnel Records. To do this, follow the directions below.
To request your SMR by fax, simply go online to the National Archives Center website. On the left, you should see the option to “request your service medical records.” Select Medical and Health Records.
You’ll be asked to confirm your identity once you are redirected to the eVetRecs portal. Provide the proper information needed to establish your identity.
IMPORTANT: If you got married or divorced, or otherwise use a different name now than you did while in the service, make sure you use the name you used while serving. This is the name the VA recognizes you by.
Once you complete these steps, you will need to fax your SF-180 to the National Personnel Records Center fax at 314-801-9195.
Request Service Medical Records by Mail
The other way to get your records is to print off the SF-180 form and fill it out manually.
You will need to fill in your information for name, date, social security number, date of birth, and so forth. Remember to use the legal name you used while in the service if it is different than the name you use today.
Once you’ve filled out SF-180, make sure to place your signature on the document. Next, you will need to mail your form to the correct branch of service. You can find the pertaining address to the branch you served in on the bottom of the form.
Keep in mind, The National Archives Center in St. Louis receives thousands of requests, and they work diligently to meet every demand. It may take them up to 9 months (or more) to get to your request, but once they do, they will have your records sent out on disk within 10 days.
Please do not resubmit your request for medical records. Some say if you resubmit your application before 90 days, your request goes back to the bottom of the pile. Others say this happens whenever you reintroduce an SF-180, even after 90 days have passed.
Be patient. Don’t risk it unless you have reason to believe your original request went into a black hole somewhere. If you mailed it to the correct address, consider it done. If you faxed it and got a fax confirmation, trust that it’s filed.
If You’re Planning to File a Claim You Could Try This Hack…
If you want your SMR because you are planning to file a VA claim for disability, you may consider submitting your forms without your medical records.
The VA has access to your SMR information! If they give you a rating decision that states the VA has reviewed all your SMR, then you have a right to get copies of all they considered. In this case, you could get a copy of your SMR from the VA, not from the national archives.
If the VA accepts your claim, then you’re golden. If they deny it, at least you will have copies of your SMR and will have the VA reasoning for their denial spelled out in your Rating Decision Letter. Both of these results put you ahead when deciding if you wish to appeal the VA’s decision.
Keep Your Information Safe
After you get a copy of your SMR file, put it in a safe place away from prying eyes. It will have your personal information on it that you will want to keep safe from identity thieves. Only give your SMR to those who have a need to know.
If someone does have a valid reason for requesting this information, give him or her copies. Never send originals.
If you have questions, reach out to Strategic Veteran at 800-761-9004.
All of our services are free. We’re Veterans helping other Veterans and can discuss your options when you’re ready. Our mission is educating Veterans about the VA disability process and empowering them to work within the VA system.