At its most basic level, service-connected disability is a loss of physical or mental function as a result of some aspect of your military service. The way you, me, or a nameless claims evaluator assess these descriptions are often wildly different. Because of this, it is an absolute must that you order your DD214 and other military records if you’re pursuing any type of disability claim.
You Are the Expert on You
You, of course, are the person with the best, most intimate, knowledge of your conditions. However, in most cases, you are also the person with the least amount of knowledge of what “counts” for VA compensation purposes and how to make a claim successful.
So how do you get across what you know about your conditions, and do so in a manner that will enable your advocate or attorney to digest it and make it make sense to the Veterans Administration or Social Security?
The best answer to this question is to obsessively collect your military service records, as well as any other treatment records you may have generated since then.
If you Order your DD214 & Other Records you can Prove your Story
Often the biggest barrier in claims, and especially appeals, is determining to a level of 50/50 confidence that what you claim happened in your service actually did. Because service records are notoriously porous, drawing conclusions from looking at service clues from the 10,000 ft perspective often helps, a lot!
For Veterans, the process to order your DD214 and other records usually start with the National Archives. Also known as the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). If you recently discharged from military service, you will want to check with your last unit as well. But for most Veterans, the NPRC is your best first bet at finding what’s been kept by Uncle Sam regarding your service.
When you reach out to the NPRC you want to make sure to request “all items in your military service records.” Do your best not to be too specific, you only give someone reason to exclude documents by being more specific. Repeat this mantra to yourself, all service records is better than just the relevant stuff.
If You’d Like to Order Your Records by Mail or Fax
Fill out the Standard Form 180 (SF-180)
Fax: (314) 801-9195 or…
National Personnel Records Center (Military Personnel Records)
1 Archives Dr.
St. Louis, MO 63138-1002
If Your Records Aren’t at the NPRC
Sometimes, your records will not be held at the NPRC. In these cases, the NPRC will respond with a letter describing the situation, and they will often reach out to other record repositories in an attempt to locate your records. These situations require a bit more follow-through and sometimes require additional steps.
Other avenues of approach you should discuss with an advocate or attorney you are working with, include:
Ordering a copy of your Claims File (C-File) from the VA
Other medical records from healthcare systems
Filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request
Collecting “buddy statements”
Detailing a timeline of your military service and your professional/personal life after service. Including jobs, life changes, challenges, etc.
Also, consider talking with an attorney that can go over all these things in a free consultation. I can certainly help here, but whomever you work with, make sure you’re not paying for this information.
Lilac City Law advocates on behalf Veterans in appeals for Service Connected Disability Benefits
We provide a Free 30-minute Consultation