National Archives at St. Louis

Access to Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) -
for Veterans and Next-of-Kin

(Not the Veteran or Next-of-kin?)

Please note: the following information, regarding access, pertains only to records of veterans who separated from service after 1952. Access records of veterans who separated from service before 1953..

How do I request copies of records?

Federal law [5 USC 552a(b)] requires that all requests for records and information be submitted in writing. Each request must be signed (in cursive) and dated (within the last year).

Certain basic information needed to locate military service records, includes: the veteran's complete name as used in service; service number; Social Security Number (if applicable); branch of service; dates of service; date and place of birth. For records affected by the 1973 Fire, additional information, such as place of discharge; last assigned unit; and place of entry into service may be useful.

To request military service records: veterans, the next-of-kin (the un-remarried widow or widower, son, daughter, father, mother, brother or sister) or authorized representatives may:

If you prefer to send your request via postal mail or fax, please use the Standard Form (SF) 180, Request Pertaining to Military Records. Although not mandatory, using the SF-180 is the recommended method to send a request for military service information. This form captures all the necessary information to locate a record. Provide as much information on the form as possible and send copies of any service documents that you may have.

Follow the instructions for preparing the SF-180. Check the Records Location Table and submit your request to the appropriate address.

Note: For the issuance and replacement of medals and awards, do not use the addresses on the SF-180. See Military Awards and Decorations for additional information on how and where to submit correspondence for issuance or replacement.

Costs: Generally there is no charge for basic military personnel and health record information provided to veterans, next-of-kin and authorized representatives from Federal (non-archival) records. If your request involves a service fee, you will be notified as soon as that determination is made. See Archival Records for information on archival holdings and associated copy fees: the NARA fee schedule authorizes the Agency to collect fees from the public for copies of archival records (44 USC 2116c and 44 USC 2307).

Veterans, or their next-of-kin, who have a strong interest in viewing their own files in person, rather than receiving document copies by mail, may request an appointment with the Federal Records Center Research Room, or hire an independent researcher to examine the records on their behalf.

Emergency Requests and Deadlines:

If your request is urgent (e.g. upcoming surgery, funeral, etc.) and there is a deadline associated with your request, please provide this information in the "Comments" section of eVetrecs or in the "Purpose" section of the SF-180 and fax it to our Customer Service Team at (314) 801-0764. Our goal is to complete all urgent requests within two working days. However, in some instances we can complete requests the same day if necessary. Please contact our customer service staff at (314) 801-0800 if you have questions or require same day service. Due to the large number of calls we receive at this number, hold times are often long. However, once you reach a technician they will be happy to assist you with emergency service.

If your burial request involves internment at a Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery, contact the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at (800) 535-1117 or visit their website http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/burial_benefits/. We work directly with the Veterans Affairs staff to obtain records to verify service for burial benefits. If the veteran is not going to be interned at a National Cemetery, the requester may fax the SF-180 or signature page from eVetRecs (including signature of the next of kin and proof of death) to the Customer Service Team at (314) 801-0764. If your request involves the burial of a Marine Corps veteran, you may also contact the USMC Liaison Officer at (314) 538-2344.

NOTE:The 1973 Fire at the National Personnel Records Center damaged or destroyed 16-18 million Army and Air Force records that documented the service history of former military personnel discharged from 1912-1964. Although the information in many of these primary source records was either badly damaged or completely destroyed, often alternate record sources can be used to reconstruct the service of the veterans impacted by the fire. Sometimes we are able to reconstruct the service promptly using alternate records that are in our holdings, but other times we must request information from other external agencies for use in records reconstruction. In some instances, therefore, requests that involve reconstruction efforts may take several weeks to a month to complete.

Response Time and Checking the Status of a Request:

Response time varies and is dependent upon the complexity of your request, the availability of records and our workload. Please do not send a follow-up request before 90 days have elapsed, as it may cause further delays. While the NPRC works actively to respond to each request in a timely fashion, the Center receives approximately 4,000 - 5,000 requests per day. We are responding to requests for separation documents within 10 days about 92% of the time. However, requests that involve reconstruction efforts due to the 1973 Fire, or older records which require extensive search efforts, may take 6 months or more to complete.

Checking the Status of Your Request by E-mail: Once you have allowed sufficient time for us to receive and process your request (about 10 days), you may check the status of your request by e-mail through our NPRC Customer Service Center at mpr.status@nara.gov. Please provide the request number if you have one, the name, address and phone number of the requester and the veteran's branch of service to aid us in finding your request in our system. You will receive a return e-mail from us with a projected completion date for your request.

Special Note on Calling by Phone: If you have already submitted a request and need to know its status you may speak to a Customer Service Representative. Staff is available to take your call as early as 7:00 am CST and as late as 5:00 pm CST. Our peak calling times are weekdays between 10:00 am CST and 3:00 pm CST:

Telephone: 314-801-0800
Telephone (Toll Free) 1-866-272-6272

Special Note on Contacting by E-mail: Requests for military personnel records or information from them cannot be accepted by e-mail at this time. The Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. 552a) and Department of Defense directives require a written request, signed and dated, to access information from military personnel records. Our e-mail address should only be used to request general information (hours of operations, procedures and forms) or to submit compliments, complaints or concerns.

Please review these web pages for information before contacting us.

NOTE: If you send messages using WebTV or a free e-mail service, you will not receive our response if your mailbox is full. Messages sent to full mailboxes are returned to us as "undeliverable." You may wish to include your mailing address in your message so that we may respond via the U.S. Postal Service.

Filing a claim for medical benefits?

Veterans who plan to file a claim for medical benefits with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) do not need to request a copy of their military health record from the NPRC. After a claim is filed, the VA will obtain the original health record from the NPRC. In addition, many health records were lent to the Department of Veterans Affairs prior to the 1973 Fire.

Veterans who filed a medical claim should contact the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in order to determine if their record is already on file. The VA Toll Free # is: 1-800-827-1000 - it will connect the caller to the nearest VA office.

General Information:

Veterans and Next-of-Kin of deceased veterans have the same access rights to the record. The next-of-kin is defined as any of the following: the un-remarried widow or widower, son, daughter, father, mother, brother or sister of the deceased veteran. Next-of-kin must provide proof of death of the veteran, such as a copy of the death certificate, a letter from the funeral home or a published obituary. Different release procedures apply for records 62 years and older, see Archival Records.

Authorized Third Party Requesters, e.g., lawyers, doctors, historians, etc., may submit requests for information from individual records with the veteran's, or next-of-kin's, signed and dated authorization. They should state who they are in relation to the individual and the purpose of the request. All authorizations should specify exactly what the veteran (or next-of-kin) is allowing to be released to a third party. Authorizations are valid one year from date of signature. A sample authorization is included for your review. Next-of-kin must also provide the third party requestor with proof of death of the veteran, such as a copy of the death certificate, a letter from the funeral home or a published obituary.

Information or copies of documents may be released from Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) within the provisions of the law. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Privacy Act provide balance between the right of the public to obtain information from military service records and the right of the former military service member to protect his/her privacy. Please review these items for additional information. In all cases, you must sufficiently identify the person whose record is requested, so that the records can be located with reasonable effort. Greater access is granted for records 62 years and older, see Archival Records.

National Archives at St. Louis >

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
1-86-NARA-NARA or 1-866-272-6272

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