If you were injured while serving in the armed forces and your injury is keeping you from living a full and productive life, you may be eligible for veterans disability benefits. A strong claim for disability benefits can only be made with relevant and supporting medical records. Medical records can help establish the date of your injury, the cause of the injury, the severity of the injury, and how this injury continues to impact your ability to function today.
Do I Need To Request Copies of My Medical Records?
The short answer is YES!
When filing a “standard” claim, the VA is responsible for obtaining medical records from the federal agencies and requesting records from private treatment providers that you have identified on your application. As you can imagine, this is a huge undertaking for the VA because of the significant number of veterans filing for disability benefits each year. The VA will make a reasonable effort to get your records; however, this does not mean that all of the requested records will be sent to the VA or that the records will be complete. As a result, the VA may make a decision about your eligibility for benefits that may not be based on all of the facts.
When filing a “Fully Developed Claim,” you are responsible for gathering and providing all of the relevant medical records with your application for benefits. This means that when you submit your application, you will certify that all of the relevant evidence has been included and the VA will use that information to make a decision about your claim. Again, if any records are missing or incomplete, the VA may not be able to see that your current impairment is related to an injury from your military service or they may not understand the severity or impact of the injury.
Whichever option you choose, it is important to make sure that the VA has ALL of the relevant evidence in their possession when reviewing your claim. This can only be done by requesting and submitting the medical records yourself (or with the help of your VSO).
How Do I Request My Medical Records?
Contact your VSO! They have experience handling claims and medical record requests and will make sure that the following types of records are requested:
Service Treatment Records contain details of the outpatient, dental, and mental health treatment received by an individual while in the service; for example, physicals, routine medical care, lab tests, etc. Depending on your separation date, these records are filed in various facilities around the country (See https://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/medical-records.html to determine the location of your records).
Clinical Records contain the information from the hospitalizations of active duty members (inpatient stays). These records are held at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) under the name of the treating hospital.
VAMC Treatment Records contain the treatment information for eligible veterans after separation from the service at VA medical centers. These records are stored at the facility where treatment was performed. Therefore, you must contact each facility and submit a written request to receive a copy of your VA treatment records.
Private Medical Records contain medical information from any doctor, therapist, or treatment facility outside of the VA or other military service-related treatment. Similar to the VA records, requests for copies of any private medical records must be submitted to the treating facility or physician. Some physicians charge a fee for your records. Check with your VSO to see if your state requires physicians to offer a discount (sometimes free) for records that are being used to support a disability claim. Please note, if the VA requests private medical records and the provider charges a fee the VA will not pay this fee. You will need to get the records and provide them to the VA.
Preparing your application for VA disability benefits can be overwhelming and frustrating, but finding answers to your disability claims questions doesn’t have to be difficult. Take our free quiz today to determine what resources are available for your specific needs.
Additional ResourcesVA Treatment Locations
If you are a veteran of the U.S. military and have a current injury or condition that is connected to that service, you may be eligible for veterans’ disability compensation. While the VA is responsible for assisting with the gathering the information that is relevant to your claim, the only way to make sure that the VA has all of the information related to your service and disabilities is to submit the records yourself, or with the assistance of your Veteran’s Service Officer (VSO).
The steps for requesting your service treatment records (STRs) and personnel records are explained below to help guide you through the process.
How Do I Get My Service Treatment Records and Personnel Records?
If you are the veteran or next-of-kin (widow/widower (un-remarried); son or daughter; or father, mother, brother, or sister of a deceased veteran), you can submit a request for military personnel, health, and medical records online through the National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records (NPRC-MPR) at www.vetrecs.archives.gov. Your authorized representative, including a VSO, may also submit requests for these records on your behalf, with a signed and dated authorization (i.e., a Power of Attorney or POA).
What Information Do I Need to Request My Service Records?
Because there are so many records to sort through, it is important to include enough information in your request to accurately identify your service record. To save time, make sure to have the following information available when making your request
- The veteran’s complete name;
- Service number and/or social security number;
- Branch of service;
- Dates of service;
- Birthdate and birthplace;
- Name of last facility that was responsible for the veteran’s treatment record;
- The year and type of treatment received;
- You may also need the veteran’s place of discharge, last assigned unit, and place of entry into service.
If you are not a computer person, the request for your records can also be made by mail, using Standard Form 180. This form can be obtained online or from your local Veterans Administration office or veterans service organization. It requires the same information as the online request. Upon completion of the Standard Form 180, mail it to the appropriate address listed on the 2nd page of the form.
After approximately 10 days, you or your VSO can check the status of your request through the Online Status Update Request form or by calling the Customer Service Line at 1-866-272-6272.
What If Some of My Service Records Are Missing?
Once the service records are received, it is important to review them with your VSO since it is not uncommon for the records to be incomplete. After review, if you determine that there are missing records, you can contact the Records Center or VA and make another request. When making this new request, make sure to provide more specific information about your location, dates, etc.
If you are still unable to locate the records, you may be able to fill in gaps in your service history with statements from an officer or a buddy who served with you, or other medical records that can draw a connection between your service and your current disability.
Although it can be frustrating, it is important to make sure that the VA has a complete file (or as complete as possible) when reviewing your application for veterans disability compensation. Taking these additional, proactive steps to get your records will save you time and heartache down the road.
Finding answers to your disability claims questions doesn’t have to be difficult. Take our free quiz to determine what resources are available for your specific needs.
To find out where your records are stored, visit: https://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/locations
Do I Qualify for Veterans Disability Benefits?
Filing Your Claim
- Intent to File
- Standard Claim
- Fully Developed Claim
Other Veterans Disability Claim Options: Standard or Fully Developed Claims
How Do I Know Which Option is Best for My Situation?
Additional ResourcesVA Webpage on the Intent to File Process
VA Webpage on Filing a Claim
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