How do you Gather Evidence for a Claim for VA Benefits?

One of the most challenging activities of preparing a claim for benefits is gathering evidence. You can rely on VA for doing this for you, but the probability is very high that so doing will result in an unfavorable decision.

Obtaining Service Treatment and Personnel Records for an Original Filing

VETERANS MILITARY RECORDS REPOSITORIES

National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri (NPRC)

National Personnel Records CenterThe National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) is an office of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Located in multiple facilities in the St. Louis area, the Center stores and services over 4 million cubic feet of military and civilian personnel and medical records dating back to the Spanish-American War.

In the mid 1950s, the Department of Defense constructed the then-named Military Personnel Records Center in Overland, Missouri – a location south of the current new building. In the years that followed, military personnel, medical, and organizational records of each military service department were relocated to the Overland facility. A new larger building you see here was completed and occupied in 2012.

When the original Military Personnel Records Center in Overland was constructed in the 1950s, it was not equipped with a fire suppression system. In 1973, a massive fire at the Center destroyed somewhere between 16 million to 18 million records documenting the military service of Army and Air Force veterans who separated between 1912 and 1964. Though the fire occurred almost 45 years ago, the Center continues to service approximately 200,000 requests per year which pertain to records lost in the fire. When responding to fire-related requests, technicians attempt to reconstruct the basic service record by using auxiliary records such as pay vouchers and/or by obtaining documents from other official sources. Though the Center is normally able to reconstruct basic service data, it is often impossible to reconstruct complete records of awards and decorations.

Today, NPRC holds approximately 60 million official military personnel files. Its holdings also include Service Treatment Records, clinical records from military medical treatment facilities, auxiliary records such as pay vouchers and service name indexes, and organizational records such as morning reports and unit rosters. NPRC stores these records in both paper and microfiche.

NPRC's military records facility receives between 4,000 and 5,000 correspondence requests each day from veterans and their next of kin as well as requests from various Federal agencies, members of Congress, the media, and other stakeholders.

The Center receives between 5,000 and 7, 000 requests each week from the Department of Veterans Affairs and other federal agencies requiring the transfer of original records to the Document Intake Facility in Jainesville, Wisconsin for scanning into VBMS. These paper records are not returned to the Center. These records requests are normally serviced within two business days.

Despite the original idea in 1960 for the NPRC to serve as the sole central repository for information needed to verify veterans' rights and benefits, beginning in the early 1990s, the Military Service departments stopped retiring MEDICAL RECORDS, NOW CALLED SERVICE TREATMENT RECORDS, to NPRC and instead retired them directly to the VA. As a result, the NPRC does not have direct access to modern Service Treatment Records. This change was implemented by the Army in 1992; the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps in 1994; and the Coast Guard in 1998.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Military Service departments also stopped retiring official MILITARY PERSONNEL FILES to NPRC, instead retaining them in-house digital form. This change was implemented by the Navy in 1995; the Marine Corps in 1999; the Army in 2002; and the Air Force in 2004. The Coast Guard continues to retire hardcopy personnel records to NPRC.

The Military Services use their electronic personnel records systems to respond to routine correspondence requests from veterans and other stakeholders. With the exception of the Department of the Army, the NPRC refers correspondence requests for these records to the appropriate military department for servicing.

In 2007, the Department of the Army entered into an agreement to allow the NPRC to access a joint Department of Defense database called DPRIS to retrieve electronic personnel records for the purpose of responding to routine correspondence requests from veterans and other stakeholders. As a result of that decision, NPRC now processes records requests directly instead of sending those requests to the Department of the Army.

The Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps continue to service their own personnel records and respond to routine correspondence requests from veterans and other stakeholders through request.

Official Military Personnel File OMPF

Paper PouchThe National Archives' National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) stores records of individual military service pertaining to former service members who no longer have a service obligation. Included are records of veterans who are completely discharged with no remaining reserve commitment, or who are retired or have died. Records are usually transferred to NPRC within six months after these events. NPRC does not have records of members who are still in the active or inactive reserves or in the National Guard. The records of each military service department on file at NPRC are listed on the NPRC website.

The Official Military Personnel File (OMPF) is primarily an administrative record, containing information about the subject's service history such as: date and type of enlistment or appointment; duty stations and assignments; training, qualifications, performance; awards and decorations received; disciplinary actions; insurance; emergency data; administrative remarks; date and type of separation or discharge, retirement including DD Form 214, Report of Separation, or equivalent; and other personnel actions. Detailed information about the veteran's participation in battles and military engagements is NOT contained in the record.

Personnel Records in the OMPF

For most military personnel records since the late 1960s the following information may be part of the record. Not everyone will have all these items. Most files do not have photographs; few have restricted items.

  DD 214/DD 215

  Performance/Evaluation Reports

  Service Verification/Computation

  Commendatory Items

  Officer Appointment/Termination

  Derogatory Items

  Enlistment/Extensions

  Sensitive/Restricted

  Service Acknowledgment/Agreements

  Photographs

  Discharge/Separation/Retirement

  Dependent Support/Eligibility

  Casualty/Death

  Personal History/Evaluation/Biography

  Active/Reserve Orders/Endorsements

  Loan/Tuition Assistance/Eligibility

  Promotion/Advancement/Reduction

  Change/Correction/Verification/Proof

  Service/Military Education/Training

  Medical/Physical/Examinations/Findings

  Civilian Education/Training

  Miscellaneous Administrative Documents

  Service Status/Changes/Revisions

  Qualifications/Licenses/Certifications

  Chronological Assignments History

  Security Access/Clearance/Screening


For Records from 1990 to the present, many more items may be filed:

OMPF Outpatient Medical Treatment Records – Called Service

Treatment Records (STRS) Many OMPFs contain both personnel and active duty health records. Health records cover the outpatient, dental and mental health treatment that former members received while in military service. Health records include induction and separation physical examinations, as well as routine medical care when the patient was not admitted to a hospital. In comparison, clinical records were generated when active duty members were actually hospitalized while in the service. Typically, these records are NOT filed with the health records but are available elsewhere in the Center.

In the 1990s, the military services discontinued the practice of filing the health record with the personnel record portion. In 1992, the Army began retiring most of its former members' health records to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Over the next six years, the other services followed suit with the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps in 1994 and Coast Guard in 1998. In 2014, the military services discontinued the practice of retiring the records to VA, retaining them in-house.

Inpatient Clinical Records

As mentioned in the previous section, clinical or hospital inpatient records are not kept in the OMPF folder. These paper records, up until the time that the military service organizations decided to retain all records on their computer systems, are kept in another location in the NPRC and are retrieved when a records request is initiated.

A clinical record is one where the service member stayed at least one night overnight in a hospital. These records are not stored under the service member's name but are stored in the archives of the military hospitals which are kept in the NPRC. When requesting these records the veteran must specify the military hospital name, location, dates or approximate month and year of treatment.

The 1973 Fire at the Overland Facility

On July 12, 1973, a disastrous fire at the Military Personnel Records Center – the original records repository south of the new facility – destroyed approximately 16 million to 18 million Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF). The records affected were:

Branch

Personnel and Period Affected

Estimated Loss

Army

Personnel discharged November 1, 1912 to January 1, 1960

80%

Air Force

Personnel discharged September 25, 1947 to January 1, 1964 (with names alphabetically after Hubbard, James E.)

75%


No duplicate copies of these records were ever maintained, nor were microfilm copies produced. Neither were any indexes created prior to the fire. In addition, millions of documents had been lent to the Department of Veterans Affairs before the fire occurred. Therefore, a complete listing of the documents that were lost is not available. However, in the years following the fire, the NPRC collected numerous auxiliary evidence that is used to reconstruct basic service information.

Department of Veterans Affairs Records Management Center (RMC)

This facility is located 6 miles directly south of the NPRC in the Goodfellow Federal Center – a suburban office park situated on a 62.5 acre, with 23 buildings comprising the campus. The RMC is one of many federal and civilian organizations housed in this huge complex.

Records Management CenterThe buildings that now represent the Federal Center were built in 1941 by the Department of Defense and were utilized as an Army small arms munitions plant to support the World War 2 effort. During the war, approximately 16,000 employees worked at the complex manufacturing .30 and .50 caliber ammunition.

In 1992, the Service Medical Records Center (SMRC) was established to receive Service Treatment Records (STRs) directly from the military service branches upon a service member's discharge from active duty service. The aim was to bypass the NPRC in order to facilitate a more efficient way for Regional Offices to obtain medical records. Medical records would no longer be requested from the National Personnel Records Center.

The Army was the first service branch to retire medical records to the SMRC in October 1992, with the Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force following in 1994, and the Coast Guard in 1998. In October 1995, another VA agency and the SMRC merged to become the Records Management Center. Over time, the RMC's holdings grew to include more than seven million paper records, roughly half of which are inactive claim folders relocated from VBA Regional Offices (ROs), the other half consist of "stand-alone" (i.e. not within a VA claim folder) STRs. In 2012, the RMC had outlived its usefulness as VBA's primary resource for managing paper medical records.

By 2012, VBA made significant strides toward a long-held goal of converting its Compensation claim processing to a paperless environment. By mid-2013, all 56 VBA Regional Offices and the Appeals Management Center had converted to the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS). VBMS is a computer system used to develop awards from applications for Compensation claims.

The advent of an electronic folder ("eFolder") within VBMS eliminated the need for producing paper and establishing physical claim folders, which had been VA's business practice for the better part of a century. Further, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced it would scan its own STRs beginning in January 2014, eliminating the need for the RMC to deliver paper copies.

As VBA transformed into a paperless environment, the RMC began its transformation into a centralized resource for VBA providing specialized services in a digital environment. Direct services are now provided to Veterans, their families and Survivors, as well various continuing services in support of VBA's claims process.

In September 2012, the RMC successfully launched its own scanning unit. The Scan Unit has served since 2012 as a supplemental resource to VA's contract vendor in Janesville Wisconsin, which provides the bulk of conversion services. Maintaining scanning operations and knowledge in-house provides the agency flexibility and helps mitigate contract risk. The RMC's Scan Unit remains VA's largest internal scan resource for the conversion of records and document upload to VBMS.

In October 2012, an employee recommended the RMC assume the VBA workload for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Privacy Act requests. The proposal was approved by the Under Secretary for Benefits in 2013. A team from VBA's Office of Field Operations worked with the RMC to develop the concept for centralizing Compensation-related FOIA and Privacy Act requests. A pilot was conducted with five stations from March to June 2014, and the national FOIA request workload was fully transferred to the RMC by March 2015.

For the first time, VBA is completing FOIA and Privacy Act requests in an electronic environment. All requested records are downloaded from VBMS and merged into a PDF file, reviewed, redacted or withheld as appropriate in accordance with law, and the finished product is burned to a CD and mailed to the Veteran for use on a personal computer. The RMC receives 125,000 to 150,000 requests annually.

To help support this workload, the RMC successfully transitioned staff from the previous, paper-based missions such as processing incoming medical records from the service branches, which ceased as planned in December 2013. Removing the ancillary mission of FOIA and Privacy Act requests from Regional Office responsibility has allowed VBA to redirect Regional Office resources to supporting its core mission of adjudicating and delivering benefits to Veterans, their families and Survivors.

A third mission of the RMC in the digital environment is to serve as liaison for National Guard and Reserve component medical records. Obtaining these records has long been a challenge within VA, as there are more than 4,400 reserve units and Adjutant General's offices nationwide. Without a standardized directory or readily available points of contact issued by the service branches, it often proved difficult for a Veteran Service Representative to reach the unit and obtain a response sufficient to move the claim forward. Under the 'Single Point of Entry' model, RO users submit requests for actively service Guard or Reserve members to the RMC. The RMC screens the requests to confirm accuracy, then routes the requests to the appropriate service branch's central cell, or Single Point of Entry. The central cell is responsible for tracking down the records and/or issuing a document to VA certifying that all records have been made available. In turn, RMC staff pulls the records from DoD's electronic system of record into VBMS, and provide a final response to the RO.

Defense Personnel Records Information Retrieval System (DPRIS)

DPRIS is an electronic gateway that allows authorized users to access the Official Military Personnel File (OMPF) records of the Military Services online. Veterans and service members with a valid DS Level 2 Logon – eBenefits Premium Account with DS or CAC logon – can access their personal OMPF information. The following documentation is available.


Going forward – OMPF Records Availability Start Dates for DPRIS

Service Branch

Discharge or Retirement Cutoff Date

Air Force

1 October 2004

Marine Corps

1 January 1999

Navy

1 January 1995

Army

1 October 1994

Coast Guard

Not available via DPRIS at this time


The start dates for each of the Military Services represent the dates scanning was completed into their unique OMPF repository systems. If the discharge or retirement is close to these dates the veteran may not be able to use the system for records. In this case the veteran will need to go to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis for OMPF records.

DPRIS began its development phase in 1997, and received its initial approval to operate in 2002. It currently provides access to the following Department of Defense Military Service systems:


Military Services are now digitizing records into their own OMPF repositories, and are no longer retiring them to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). DPRIS provides access to these Military Service OMPF repositories at no cost to the user or the Military Service.

In 2008, DPRIS opened its doors to federal agencies with a business need for access to the OMPF repositories and allowed among other federal agencies, VA Regional Offices to retrieve records directly from the system.

Perhaps the most valuable feature of this new system is that service members and veterans desiring their OMPF records now have access to DPRIS via the eBenefits portal using a CAC or DS Logon account. Service members and veterans are required to have a Level 2 Logon to get into the DPRIS webpage. A Level 2 Logon is an eBenefits Premium account.

Once in the DPRIS webpage, a user opens a screen that has dozens of checkboxes to request specific records. After the request is completed, the system forwards that request to the appropriate Military Service. The Military Service processes the request and sends the retrieved source document images back to DPRIS. After DPRIS receives the images, it sends the user an email indicating that the images are ready for review. The user can then log into his or her eBenefits Premium account and retrieve the documents.

While many requests are answered in less than two hours, it is not uncommon for a response to take two days.

WHERE AND HOW TO OBTAIN THE MILITARY RECORDS

In order to take charge of your own application, it is essential to obtain your own military records instead of allowing VA to obtain those records for you. Incidentally, VA will obtain the records anyway, but your having your own copies allows you to analyze the contents, organize them and prepare them in a manner that will present your case through logical and persuasive arguments.

You should order your records as the very first thing you do – before you even file a claim and after you submit an Intent to File. If your records are still paper-based and are available through the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, it's a matter of first come first serve. With the new paperless claims process, if VA orders any NPRC paper records before you do, the Records Center will remove those particular documents from your file and send them to the Jainesville document Intake Scanning Center to be put into VBMS. The paper will not be returned to the NPRC. If you subsequently apply for those records, using an SF 180 – after the lengthy 3 or 4 month period it takes for the Center to respond – you will be told that your records do not exist. The dilemma you now have is trying to get those files from the VBMS system. I will discuss this a little further on.

The military records that you want to obtain are almost always Service Treatment Records and clinical records from hospital stays. In some cases, you may also want to retrieve personnel records. Personnel records are needed for those claims where you have to prove that you had a certain duty assignment or you were stationed at a certain location at a certain time. For example a claim for exposure to hazards or trauma resulting in Gulf War syndrome, PTSD, cancer or Agent Orange presumptive conditions often requires evidence from personnel records. On the other hand, you may have these records in your possession that substantiate this and you won't need personnel files.

The important consideration for where your records are is the date of your discharge. As a general rule, if you were discharged between 1994 and 2004, your records could either be available through the NPRC or through DPRIS depending on which military service you were in. Except for the Coast Guard, discharge after 2004 means your records are with DPRIS. If your files are in DPRIS, you can obtain them through eBenefits for which you need a Premium account. For most older veterans, an eBenefits Premium is hard to set up. For those of you who have discharges from 1995 on, you are automatically entitled to a Premium account. Here are the discharge start dates for DPRIS records.

Going forward – OMPF Records Availability Start Dates for DPRIS

Service Branch

Discharge or Retirement Cutoff Date

Air Force

1 October 2004

Marine Corps

1 January 1999

Navy

1 January 1995

Army

1 October 1994

Coast Guard

Not available via DPRIS at this time


Records Which Can Be Obtained through Standard Form 180

The Standard Form 180, Request Pertaining to Military Records (SF180) is used to request information from military records. The last page of this form will give you the address where you should mail the request. The mailing addresses are based on the discharge dates from each branch of military service which determine where the records are being kept. It is important to remember that beginning in the 1990s, personnel records were retired to the NPRC but health records were sent over to the VA Records Management Center, 6 miles down the road. This process continued until 2014 when this function of the RMC became obsolete and Services stored their own records.

As a general rule, any records pertaining to discharges before the dates in the table above, are generally available through records requests with the National Personnel Records Center or the VA Records Management Center for health records for discharges since the 1990s.

It is important to remember that if the documents are supposed to be in the NPRC, but have been requested at any time by VA since 2012, due to a former claim for example, those documents are no longer available through the SF 180. It is also important to know that any records that were not requested by VA in paper form from the NPRC are still available from the Center. If for example only medical files were requested previously, the personnel files should still be there.

Records for Discharges after the Start Dates Table above for DPRIS Records for discharges after the dates in the table above can either be obtained through eBenefits or by filling out an SF 180 and sending it to the appropriate address listed on the form. If an SF 180 is used, you will receive a disk from the service branch with the information in PDF format. I have already discussed the process for obtaining the information through DPRIS which is also provided in PDF format as downloadable files in your eBenefits account.

Obtaining Specific Records in an Existing Claims Folder

One of the fastest and easiest ways to obtain specific records in a veterans claims folder is to call the National Call Center at 800-827-1000. These people usually respond to a call within a reasonable period of time and are very helpful. They will only talk to the veteran claimant or to someone else if the veteran claimant is also on the phone or nearby. The records center will in no way provide copies of all service treatment records, medical records or personnel records that are already in the Veterans Benefits Management System database. They may provide a few specific documents if the claimant can identify dates for those document.

The call center is especially useful for the following:


If they agree to provide copies of documents in VBMS to which they have access, call center service personnel will send those in the mail. Expect to get results in about three weeks.

Obtaining the Complete Claims Folder in VBMS

I have already discussed your not allowing, if possible, VA to beat you to your paper records in the St. Louis Records Center. To avoid a lot of headache and wasted time, go for those files first, before you file the claim. If for some reason, those files had been already requested since 2012, you now have to obtain them through a request to the VA Records Management Center which is also located in St. Louis about 6 miles down the road from the NPRC. This is done through a Freedom of Information Act Request/Privacy Act Request submitted to the Janesville scanning center or you can mail your request to the Records Management Center directly. This is now the standard procedure for requesting records in the possession of the VBA. The Records Management Center claims that it fulfills 125,000 to 150,000 of these requests a year.

If you had an inactive claim in paper form in the VA system which was submitted before scanning began in 2012, this paper folder or C File should have been sent either to Janesville or to the RMC in St. Louis for scanning into VBMS. With the exception of certain files that are so sensitive that they must be maintained and locked in cabinets as paper files, all inactive paper files that were kept in the Regional Offices have been shipped out and all inactive claims should now be available on VBMS. This is actually very helpful if you are filing an appeal or if you are an accredited representative helping a veteran with an appeal. All of those existing records that you would have requested years ago in paper form or in copy machine form, are now available on a disc sent to you in PDF format.

If you seek Compensation benefits records contained within a VA claims folder, or military service medical records in VA's possession, your request will be fulfilled by the VA Records Management Center as part of its new Centralized FOIA/PA Initiative.

FOIA requestMail or fax Privacy Act or FOIA requests to the Intake Center in Janesville, Wisconsin:

Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
P.O. Box 4444
Janesville, WI 53547-4444
Fax: 844-531-7818

You can also mail the request directly to the Records Management Center and avoid the scanning center as we have had experience with employees in Janesville who don't seem to understand the purpose of various forms.

Here is an example of a cover letter that was the result of a recent FOIA request for records. The cover letter and the documents were received on a disc in PDF format about 3 months after the request was submitted.

The letterhead is from the VA Records Management Center at 4300 Goodfellow Blvd., Building 104 in St. Louis Missouri. On the page following is a copy of what was contained in the letter.

DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
VA Records Management Center
4300 Goodfellow Blvd., Bldg. 104
St. Louis, MO 63120

In reply, refer to: 376/275/TLG
File Number: 28777646

Re: Privacy Act Request

Dear Mr.

This is in response to your Privacy Act request dated June 26, 2017. We have provided you with the following records: Service Treatment Records.

This office will be providing your records on a compact disc (CD) for use on your personal computer. Only records of 10 pages or more are eligible for CD printing. The CD can be viewed on all computers through the use of Adobe Reader software, which is available online for free.

Thank you for your interest in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Customer service is very important to us. If you have questions or concerns regarding your request for records under the Privacy Act or Freedom of Information Act, please contact our agency at 1-888-533-4558. Please refer to the assigned case number so we may easily locate your information.

If you have questions or concerns regarding your entitlement to VA benefits or the status of your claim, please contact the VA National Call Center at 1-800-827-1000. Sincerely yours,

Records Management Center Director

Please note that the agency has provided a contact number. As far as I know, this number is not generally available to the public. It could be very useful to you if you have some difficulty recovering information that you feel is necessary to a claim or an appeal, and you have someone to talk to. We have not found it necessary to use this contact number, but I'm sure it would be helpful to some of you.

It should be noted that VA insists on tying FOIA requests to privacy requests. This is a deliberate attempt to avoid the 20 day deadline for any FOIA request as privacy requests have no deadline. Doing so, gives VA more time to respond to these requests as it is unlikely the Department has the resources to respond to records requests in 20 days or less. There is no prescribed form for filing a request, however I offer a format that provides enough information to process the request. I have provided that sample FOIA/Privacy Act request on the next page. This document is also found on the Claim Support Disc in word format under the title "Sample FOIA Request."

SUBJECT: FOIA/Privacy Act request for VBA records at the Records Management Center
<<Your Street Address>>
<<Your City, State, Zip>>
<<Date of request>>

DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
VA Records Management Center
4300 Goodfellow Blvd., Bldg. 104
St. Louis, MO 63120

Dear FOIA Officer:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act and pursuant to the Privacy Act.

I request that you submit a copy of <<the document you seek>>, or documents containing << the information you seek>>. <<Be very specific about dates and types of documents.>>

The records I am requesting are archived with the following identification:

<<your full name or the full name of the veteran if you are a claimant under the veteran>>
<<your date of birth or date of birth of the veteran>>
<<Social Security number or Social Security number of the veteran>>
<<VA file number – if available>>
<<your relationship to the veteran if you are not the veteran and the reason you are requesting the records if you are not the veteran>>

If you have any questions, I may be reached at <<your phone number>> or by email at <<your email address>>.

Sincerely,

<<Sign your request>>

Obtaining Post-Service Medical Records

Obtaining Medical Records from VA Medical Facilities
The Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration was an early innovator of electronic medical records systems. As early as 1977, the Department had operating software in many locations. Over the years the record system has evolved into a program called VistA. The VistA system is highly rated by physicians, receiving the highest overall score in Medscape surveys of over 15,000 physicians in 2014 and again in 2016, and receiving particularly high marks for connectivity and utility as a clinical tool.

Because the system has been around a long time and is highly functional, it is relatively easy to get copies of your VA healthcare records from your local medical center. Most centers respond to requests within 20 days and you should have a copy of your records within 30 days. The records arrive in the form of a disc which contains your healthcare documents you requested in PDF format.

There are 2 forms that are used for obtaining VA medical records. The first of these forms is for you personally as the veteran to request your own records. This form is VA Form 10-5345a. Be very specific when you fill out this form and I would suggest that you check all of the boxes pertaining to your medical records. Provide the dates and the names of the clinics or the medical centers where you were treated. We include this form on the Claim Support Disc. The second form , VA Form 10-5345, is for an individual representing the veteran's interests to obtain the veteran's medical records. If you are representing a veteran for a claim, this form allows the veteran to give you permission to obtain his or her records. We also include this form on the Claim Support Disc.

Obtaining Private Medical Records
If you are obtaining private medical records and you are not the veteran, you will have to obtain a release form from the private medical provider and have the veteran sign it. Almost always you will have to pay copying charges for these records. If you are the veteran, there is also a private provider form associated with the particular provider or providers you have seen. Typically, you will not have to pay anything for obtaining your own records.

Not all private medical providers have adopted electronic records systems. If the records come to you in paper format, you may be able to organize those records sufficiently to make them easy for the RSVR to understand when you submit your claim. If the records are not easily understood, you should arrange to have them scanned to PDF format. Records in PDF format can then be manipulated, cropped, extracted and rearranged in an order that will be more understandable to make your case to the rating team in the Regional Office. If you receive your private records in PDF format – which is more likely – you will also want to organize those records before you submit them. Working with PDF documents requires a version of Adobe Acrobat or a similar program.

For an example of records that are in PDF format or that have been translated from handwritten records into Microsoft Word and then converted to PDF format, look at examples of these in the two sample cases found on the Claim Support Disc. The sample cases provide you a wealth of insight into how to organize your records in order to make it easier for the RSVR to understand your claim.


Please refer to the table of contents in the top right column of this page for more topics on Eligibility for Benefits.