What to Do if You’ve Lost Your Military Records – A Complete Guide

Military service records are important for various reasons. They enable service members and veterans to receive their benefits. 

Service members receive their official military personnel file upon discharge, but they may lose this vital file. What should one do if they lose their military service records? We’ll discuss this further in this article.

Types of Information You Can Get in Military Records

Military service records contain vital information needed to verify one’s history in the military. Some of the information you can find in these records includes:

  1. The character of discharge (from one’s DD214 or other separation documents)
  2. Duty stations and assignments when active in the military
  3. Decorations and awards, including medals
  4. Qualifications, certificates, and licenses obtained through military service

Who Can Request Military Records?

Not everyone can request records of veterans. Only selected people are authorized to obtain military records, including the following:

  • The military veteran whose information is on the official military personnel file.
  • The next of kin of a deceased, former military member includes a surviving spouse who hasn’t remarried or another relative, such as a parent, child, or sibling.

Alternatively, a third party can request service records on the veteran’s behalf. However, the third party would need to be authorized by the veteran. It should be noted that the military personnel records of veterans discharged more than 62 years ago are open to the public.

Where to Request for Lost Military Records?

Eligible people can request military service records, including military medical records, from the National Archives and the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). They can also approach their state or county Veterans agency or hire an independent researcher.

Alternatively, if seeking an individual’s active duty status, people can get active duty status verifications from SCRACVS.

Requesting Military Records

People authorized to request records can contact the National Archives via fax, mail, or online. They can also use the eVetRecs website to make requests online. They’ll receive an email to confirm that the National Archives received their request.

Alternatively, proof of military service can also be obtained via fax or mail. Interested individuals must complete Standard Form 180 for this request. This form must be sent to the appropriate address or fax number listed on the form.

What if Your Records Were Part of NPRC Fire?

In 1973, plenty of military service records were burned at the fire at the National Personnel Records Center. These records include the files of those who served in the Army between November 1, 1912, and January 1, 1960, and in the Air Force between September 25, 1947, and January 1, 1964.

Suppose the service, medical, and health records in question were affected by this fire. In that case, eligible parties can submit a specific request to the NPRC for any additional service records they may have or can find for that person.

Timelines and Restrictions

As mentioned, only authorized individuals can request records from the National Archives. Files are only publicly available 62 years after the records were released. However, people with a letter of authorization from the veteran or their next of kin may be able to access certain information.

Reconstructing Your Records

People who need to reconstruct their records must submit a request to the NPRC. They should supply as much information as possible to process the request promptly. If the information provided is scarce, the NPRC might find it challenging to release records.


Losing one’s military records can affect a person’s ability to access VA benefits. Fortunately, interested parties can explore different methods to prove one’s military service. Click here to sign up at SCRAVS and verify the active duty status.


How do I recover my military records?

You can request service records from the NPRC as long as you have sufficient information and you’re authorized to obtain information on that service member.

Can you find military records online?

Yes, you can get military records online from the National Archives website.

How can I get my deceased father’s military medals?

Replacement medals may be available from the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). A deceased service member’s next of kin may request a copy accordingly.

How can I access military records for a relative who served a long time ago?

Yes, You can access military records for your family and relatives. If the service records were released 62 years ago, you may send a request to the NPRC. All military service records released over 62 years ago are publicly available via the National Archives.

Does the military keep records?

Yes, the Armed Forces keep records of all those who rendered active duty service to the country.

How long are military records kept?

Military service records are exclusively available to veterans and their next of kin within 62 years of discharge and are made available to the public 62 years after discharge.

Attorney Roy Kaufmann serves as the Director of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Centralized Verification Service, located in Washington, D.C. As a recognized authority on the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, Mr. Kaufmann has published hundreds of articles and hosted many webinars. His teachings help law firms and businesses to remain compliant with the SCRA rules and regulations so as to avoid costly fines.