Gathering your Service Medical Records
Until you need them, you probably haven’t thought much about gathering your Military Service Medical Records (SMR). Strategic Veteran recommends that you start gathering your records now if you are planning to file a disability claim with the VA.
Military records and some medical records can be retrieved through the government’s eBenefits.va.gov site and your MyHealtheVet account.
If you served in 2004 or later, you should be able to get your medical records from ‘2004 to present’ from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) using these step-by-step instructions:
STEP 1 – You’ll need the Authorization for Disclosure of Medical or Dental Information form. Click here to download DD Form 2870
STEP 2 – Print out the form.
STEP 3 – Fill out section I – Patient Data. Following boxes need to be filled out:
BOX 1: Name
BOX 2: DOB
BOX 3: SSN #
BOX 4: Period of treatment: 2004/01-Current
BOX 5: Type of Treatment: Select both STEP 4 – Section II – Disclosure
BOX 6: I authorize Walter Reed National Military Medical Center
BOX 6 A: Name of person or organization to receive my medical information: [ X ] Self
BOX 6 B: Address: Your address to where you want the medical records to go
BOX 7: Reason for Request: [X] Continued Medical Care
BOX 8: Information to be released: Format: [ X ] CD or Email [ ]
BOX 9: Authorization Start Date: Date you are making the request
BOX 10: Authorization Expiration: Same date as Authorization Start Date. (Do not check box date or Action Completed)
STEP 5 – Section III: Release Authorization
BOX 11: Signature: Sign the Document
BOX 12: Relationship to Patient: Self
BOX 13: Date: Put in the date you are making the request
Once you have completed the form, fax the document to WRMMC at 301-400-3078 or 301-400-1910.
This is important: After faxing your request, call WRMMC at 301-400-3075/ Release of Information. Follow the prompts to check to see if the department received your request.
It is imperative that you call the department you made the request to on the same day to verify receipt. If you confirm receipt, you should have your medical records from 2004 to date within 30 days.
SF 180 for Records Prior to 2004:
For medical records prior to 2004, you can make an online request here: https://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records
If you choose not to request your records online, you will need to use SF 180 ‘Request Pertaining To Military Records.’ You can download it online. Just put ‘SF 180’ in the search bar of your browser, and a pdf document should appear.
Depending on whether you have a program that allows you to convert pdfs or not, you may be able to fill it out online first before printing and signing it. Otherwise, you’ll need to print it out then fill it in by hand or typewriter. Try to write neatly.
The first page of the form has the VA instructions, and the third page contains dates along with personnel and medical or service treatment numbers. This section is essential when it comes to identifying where to send your service medical records (SMR) request
There are separate addresses to use for each branch: Air Force, Air Reserves, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Marine Forces Reserve, and so forth. There are also non-specific military addresses such as the National Personnel Records Center, the Department of Veteran Affairs Records Management Center, and the National Archives & Records Administration.
It can be a little daunting choosing the correct one. If you know the branch of service and the date of discharge/retirement/death, then you can use the ‘current status of service member’ section above the addresses to look up where to mail your SF 180.
Some Veterans skip this address maze and send their SF 180 to:
National Personnel Records Center
(Military Personnel Records)
St. Louis, MO 63138-1002
Some Records Destroyed
Unfortunately, a fire on the sixth floor of the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) on July 12, 1973 destroyed approximately 16 to 18 million official military files. Records for Army personnel who were discharged between November 1, 1912 and January 1, 1960 may not exist anymore. The same is true for Air Force personnel separating between September 25, 1947 and January 1, 1964 if they have last names starting alphabetically with ‘Hub’ and running through the letter Z.’
Firefighters from 42 different districts fought the blaze, which wreaked havoc for nearly four and a half days before being ruled ‘officially out.’ No one has an index of the actual records destroyed because some files were loaned to the VA administration at the time. The NPRC estimates they lost 80% of the Army records for this period and 75% of the Air Force Records.
A massive effort followed the fire to retrieve and preserve millions of water-logged files through drying and taking anti-mold measures. In addition, the NPRC collected auxiliary records from multiple sources to use as resources for reconstructing basic service information.
If your records were not among those destroyed by fire, it could still take up to a year to get copies, according to the government. You will receive your records back on a disc. You can use this information to start filing your own claims.
If you would like a professional organization to review your records, please contact us, and we can provide some recommendations.