Veterans' and retirees records are tricky to obtain

Do you know how to obtain your military personnel or service records? Should you be currently on active duty, you won't have too much trouble, but it is more difficult to obtain records for the military veteran, retiree, or the next of kin.

Most personnel or service records (201 files) of veterans are stored at National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), in St. Louis MO. In some cases, these records date back to 1886. Veterans of the next of kin of a deceased veteran can get access to these records in three ways.

1. Write directly to the NPRC requesting copies of a particular document or documents;

2. Personally visit the NPRC and review the entire file.

3. Get a third party to review/copy the records at the NPRC.

Never request records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) under which only limited information can be provided. The entire record can be acquired or reviewed if requested by the veteran (or next of kin of deceased veteran) under the Privacy Act.

A written request is the least expensive choice as there is usually no fee. The mailing address is:

National Personnel Records Center

9700 Page Boulevard

St. Louis MO 63132-5100

Should you decide to write, you must ask for specific information or documentation but it is unlikely that you will get a copy of the entire file because of the enormous workload and limited number of clerks at the NPRC. The center receives more than 200,000 requests each month, therefore, do not expect a quick reply.

If copies of separation or discharge papers are needed quickly, a visit to NPRC can be faster, providing those requesting data arrives before 1 p.m. on normal work days. There is no fee for this service, but family members will need a signed authorization from the veteran, or proof that the veteran is deceased. Photo ID also is required, such as a driver's license.

To view the entire file, it is necessary that an appointment be made by the veteran, or next of kin. For appointments, call:

Air Force, 314-538-4218

Navy/Marine Corps/Coast Guard,

314-538-4200

Army Retired 314-538-4010

The last option is to get a third party to obtain the file and copy all or part of it. The U.S. Locator Service in St. Louis is a private firm that specializes in military records searches. The NPRC has approved this firm to act as an agent for veterans or their next of kin. With signed authorization, the firm will obtain the complete file and make copies of either discharges or an entire personnel and medical file. These copies will be sent directly to the client. The fee for discharge copies is $60; and for copies of an entire file, $110. The turnaround time is 10-21 days.

For more information and/or an authorization form, send your request to U.S. Locator Service, Attn: Dick Bielen, PO Box 140194, St. Louis MO 63114-0194 or call 314-423-0860.

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