Guide for Requesting Military Records
- March 03, 2015
- by Dean and Karen Beers
How do I request military records? What is the turn-around time and what is available?
Current Status for Active Members
First, what if you need to check the status of a current service member? These questions come up frequently for investigators. For current status, visit https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/appj/scra/single_record.xhtml.
For veteran records, it's not so simple, but it has been simplified. For our agency, it has been some time since we've done these regularly. A few things have improved - one area that hasn't is their response. Although frequently recorded with the Clerk & Recorder (or similar) DD214s are considered confidential and available only to the veteran - spouse or other next-of-kin cannot receive a DD214.
However, the near equivalent information is available from the Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF); see below.
What does this cost?
There is no charge – free, even for a rush. For a rush request, see below. What is the difference for a rush and routine request to receive your records? In our experience, a rush is about one month (4-6 weeks typically) and standard is about three months (3-4 months typically).
Important contact information:
National Personnel Records Center
1 Archives Drive
St. Louis, MO 63138
Main Customer Service Number
Request Fax Number
Veterans, and spouses of deceased veterans, can request these records online. The start page for all requests is http://www.archives.gov/st-louis/military-personnel/foia-info. Note: requests cannot be emailed, only faxed or mailed.
The form required is SF-180 and veterans can order directly online at http://vetrecs.archives.gov.
Once you have sent your request, you can check on the status of a request for records that have been submitted to NPRC going to https://www.archives.gov/personnel-records-center/forms or by phone at (314) 801-0800 (early morning central time is best).
How long might this request take?
Requests take about 12 weeks - 3 months to process! If you have a deadline date, send in a statement stating the deadline date and urgency and fax it to the emergency fax number (314) 801-0764 and they will try to send the records when you need them.
The public has access to certain military service information without the veteran's authorization or that of the next-of-kin (the un-remarried widow or widower, son, daughter, father, mother, brother or sister) of deceased veterans.
Potentially Available Information
Examples of information which may be available from Federal (non-archival) Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) without an unwarranted invasion of privacy include:
- Service Number
- Dates of Service
- Branch of Service
- Final Duty Status
- Final Rank
- Assignments and Geographical Locations
- Source of Commission*
- Military Education Level
- Promotion Sequence Number*
- Awards and decorations (eligibility only, not actual medals)
- Transcript of Courts-Martial Trials
- Place of entrance and separation
*Items rarely available in the records we maintain.
If the veteran is deceased:
- Place of birth
- Date and geographical location of death
- Place of burial
FOIA and Official Personnel Folders (OPF)
Most information in a Federal (non-archival) Official Personnel Folder (OPF) is not releasable to the general public without the written consent of the individual whose record is involved. The Freedom of Information Act does allow, however, for certain information to be released without the individual's consent. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has determined that the following information can be released to the public:
- Past and present positions
- Past and present titles
- Past and present salaries
- Past and present grades
- Past and present job locations
Knowing the importance of complete records checks, we researched this process in October 2014. Due to a pending settlement conference, we requested and received copies on a rush basis (about one month). In our case, the client provided a copy of the subject's DD214, which had some time lapses, and noted an Honorable Discharge. The records received filled in those dates – the subject was both AWOL and a deserter with administrative punishment for these convictions. The discharge, with benefits, was negotiated.
About the Authors
Dean A. Beers, CLI, CCDI, and Karen S. Beers, BSW, CCDI are both private investigators licensed in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Certified Criminal Defense Investigators, and certified in Medicolegal Death Investigations to include as a forensic autopsy assistants; together they co-developed Death Investigation for Private Investigators online continuing education for 14 states and for PIeducation.com. Dean formed the agency in 1987 and focused on general investigations, as well as individual locates, backgrounds and assets and liabilities. Karen began in 1996, gaining knowledge and experience in the same areas.
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