How to Request or Find VA Service or Medical Records
How to get your VA claim file and service medical records.
There are a few ways you can get your claims file
and service medical records. Here I will explain how you can get your claims file often referred to as your C-file and your
service medical records also called SMRs. One of the biggest mistakes many veterans make when applying for veterans compensation
benefits from the VA is that they never request their claims file and service medical records. In fact, even if you do
not have a claim for VA compensation or pension you should get a copy of your records as soon as possible. It is highly
recommended that you request a copy of all of your records as soon as you leave service if not why you are still in service.
One of the biggest roadblocks in a VA compensation claim can often be lost and missing service medical records. You
can request your claim file and service medical records a few ways. You can request them directly from the National
Personnel Records Center. You can request a copy of your records from the nearest VA Regional Office. You can
call 1-800-827-1000 to find the closest VA Regional office to you. If you have a lawyer or representative you can have
them request your records for you. VA Regional offices, lawyers and representatives will have the consent to release
form needed to get your records. You may also have to request records from medical facilities directly if there is treatment
you recieved not found in the file you get from the VA.
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Why do you need your VA claim file and service medical records?
Even if you leave military service in fairly good health you never know when a medical condition you were treated for inservice
might become a bigger problem later in life. If you have a traumatic experience in service, it is very common for veterans
to develop post-traumatic stress disorder also referred to as PTSD. These signs and symptoms and diagnosis of PTSD can occur
many years after service. If you have a copy of your military records when you leave service and they document a traumatic
experience than if you do later develop PTSD you already have the evidence you need to possibly verify the incident that caused the
PTSD without having to worry about the VA or military losing these records if you tried to get them at a later time. The same
can be said for other medical conditions you were treated for in service that might reoccur or cause other medical problems
later in life. If you did not get your records when you left service then you'll want to requests your service medical records
and C file when or if you actually have a claim later. If you have been denied your VA compensation or pension claim you will
certainly want to request your claim file and service medical records at this point. The earlier you request your records,
the sooner you will get them and be able to see what the VA is looking at when deciding your claim. This is important because
you may notice that there are records missing from your file that could be helpful to your claim. Also, if you decide to get
a lawyer to help you with your claim after you have been denied you will be able to provide these records to your lawyer so
he can review your case without the lawyer having to take several months waiting to receive them. The VA processes is long
enough and anything you can do to speed up that process you will want to do, and having a complete claims file with service
medical records allows for you or your lawyer to review the information and decide what else is needed to win your claim.
Remember, all claims are won and lost based on the evidence that is in your file so to give yourself the best chance to win
you must know what's in your file and what is not.
Lost or missing records from your claim file or
service medical records
First of all, you should never accept
as fact that the evidence you requested is missing, lost or unable to be found. I have seen many veterans that received
a letter from the VA telling them that the records they have requested cannot be found or that more information is needed
to find the requested information. In many cases, further requests for the missing records often lead to the records being
found. One of the keys to giving yourself the best chance to find records the VA says is missing is to be as specific as possible
about the records you are looking for. Dates, locations, names of people you served with, the unit you served in, your commanding
officer, name and address of a hospital and any other details may make the difference in whether the missing information is
found or not. The VA has a "duty to assist" to help you find all of your records, but take it upon yourself to provide as much information as you can that
will help in locating the evidence you are seeking. A lawyer or representative can sometimes be very helpful in locating lost
records. Your congressmen can also be a good source to help you find missing evidence from your military file.
So what do you do if you still can't find the missing evidence after numerous attempts.
If the VA or military has lost your records then oftentimes
you can still win your VA compensation case if you can find substitutes or other evidence that the event or treatment occurred. One way you can do this is by the use
of a buddy letter or several buddy letters. If you served with people who knew about the situation or treatment you can seek
them out and ask them for a letter explaining their knowledge of the situation. You can also often times use the evidence
that is in your file to show that an event occurred or perhaps medical treatment was performed. Sometimes you may have to
dig even deeper and show evidence such as e-mails or letters sent home, pictures, or even news articles or information
found on the Internet. What evidence you need will depend on your particular case and the evidence that is missing.
You sometimes have to get creative. One situation that occurs frequently is in the situation where abuse or sexual trauma
is not reported or in your records. In this example, a drop in performance, difference in behavior, request for transfer,
or even drug and alcohol use that did not occur before the incident can be used as evidence the traumatic event occurred.
It is not possible to write on this web-page allthe possibilities, but my hope is that you will not accept the fact that
you can't win your case because certain evidence is lost or unable to be found by the VA. There is a "heightened
duty" when the records held by a federal institution are missing or destroyed. Washington v. Nich Olsen 19 Vet. App.