7 Tips to Find Military Service Records
Military records aren’t easily accessible to the public. As a result, trying to find an old military buddy or verifying a partner’s claims is challenging. Fortunately, there are a few ways to track down the information, as long as you know where to look. Find out how to go about the process, below.
1. How to Verify Military Service
To verify a veteran’s service, you need to access their military personnel files or request that they provide a copy of their discharge paperwork. The most important form for this process is the [DD Form 214]. This document is issued for every former military member upon discharge and proves the branch and dates of service.
A current service member has a variety of methods to prove their service. Their ID card is one of the easiest, but it only provides limited information. Their Leave and Earning Statement, on the other hand, offers plenty of verification data. This document is used to verify their status and pay grade.
2. Using Free Public Record Services
Public records are one of the best sources for finding information about a person. An online background check pulls information from a variety of databases so that you don’t have to track down the resources on your own. This collection of documents includes traditional public records, like property transfers, marriage licenses, and divorce decrees. You’ll also gain access to local, state, and federal court records.
Such a variety of information is an excellent way to find a member’s current address. It is also helpful when pinpointing a person’s past military service, as the information is likely to show up on legal documents. To request a background check, you simply need a few pieces of key information, such as their first and last name.
3. Accessing U.S. Military Records
While they don’t provide access to information for current military members, the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) holds on to all records of former military personnel. The institution offers online access through their eVetRecs system, but a large majority of these documents are still based on paper. As a result, you will likely need to make an official request.
Older Military Records
The biggest issue you’ll run into is accessibility. All records of service members discharged before 1956 are public, so you simply need to place an archival records request online by mail or fax. There is also a physical NARA location in St. Louis, MO. Known as the Archival Research Room, the site offers expert assistance and access to documents that are not available online. However, you need to schedule an appointment well in advance of your visit for entry.
More Recent Military Records
For any records that are less than 62 years old, there are restrictions on who can and cannot access them. Approved individuals include the military veteran themselves, as well as their next of kin, such as a spouse, parent, sibling, or child. Yet, close family members are only allowed to request records if the veteran is deceased. To gain access, you need to complete the SF-180 form and mail or fax it to the office outlined on the paperwork.
4. Identifying U.S. Military Ranking
To verify an individual’s military ranking, you need access to their service records in one form or another. The DD Form 214 is the easiest way to find this information. It outlines duty assignments and rankings, as well as any honors received.
The biggest issue with retrieving a discharge form is gaining access. The DD214 is available through the NARA system and is easily accessible through their website. But, if it isn’t your or your relative’s discharge paperwork, you are not allowed to use the service.
5. Contacting the Branches of Military
If you are searching for records in hopes of contacting a current military member, there are other options for you. Many of the branches of military offer personnel locator services. To use the services, contact the correct branch and provide member information, such as the name, rank, and service number.
**Here’s the contact information for these branches of the military:**
6. How to Protect Military Personnel Public Records
Some public documents provide addresses and vital information. While it’s fine in the hands of the courts or governments, it may offer details that make a person vulnerable. If you’re worried that a public record compromises a military service member, there are a few options available.
Seal the Records
One of the top options is sealing the record. For this process, the document stays on file, but it’s only viewable by approved parties. Typically, this restricts the view from the general public while maintaining access for government entities.
There are restrictions on which records can and cannot be sealed. Every jurisdiction has its own laws, so you need to research guidelines in your area. If your case qualifies, you need to petition the appropriate court to get the records sealed.
Another option is requesting removal. To achieve this, you need to contact the institution in charge of your file and request a removal from their online database. It’s not a common request, but if you explain the situation, they may approve it. This process isn’t as official as sealing, but it is less challenging. However, there’s no guarantee that it will work.
You may also need to request removal after a record is sealed. Instead of contacting the department with the file, you have to reach out to online databases that provide replicated information. If you don’t know where the information is posted, start with a google search or run an online background check.
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