February 25, 2005M21-1, Part III
CHAPTER 4. REQUESTS FOR SERVICE RECORDS
SUBCHAPTER I. SERVICE RECORDS MIGRATION
4.01 OVERVIEW OF SERVICE RECORDS MIGRATION
a. General. Where a veteran's service records end up following separation is affected by a number of different agencies and may vary depending on local conditions and workloads. Securing a veteran's service records may require careful analysis on the part of the individual doing the development. The following subparagraphs furnish a general framework for understanding what happens to a veteran's service records after separation from active duty. For specific instructions and address codes, see Addendum A.
Note: A critical element in locating a veteran's service records is knowing the type of separation. If the type of separation is “Discharge,” the veteran has no reserve obligation. If the type of separation is “Release from Active Duty,” the veteran is being transferred to a reserve component to complete his/her military obligation. This information is currently shown in item 23 of the DD214. Additionally, the veteran's Reserve obligation termination date can be found in Item 6 of DD 214, “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty.” Always use the current date when determining if there is a remaining obligation when there is a need to request military service records. When the obligation date is past, there is no reserve obligation for purposes of requesting military service records.
b. National Personnel Records Center (NPRC)
(1) The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), an independent agency separate from both VA and Department of Defense, operates NPRC in St. Louis (address code 13). Most of the records needed in connection with the adjudication of veterans' claims will eventually end up in NPRC except for the following service medical records:
(a) Active Reservists’ records. These records are kept by the personnel office of the Service Reserve Unit.
(b) Inactive Reservists’ Records. These records are maintained by the personnel office of the Branch of Service until the veteran is activated for reserve duties at which time the records are sent to the Reserve Unit's personnel office.
(c) National Guards. Records of veterans on National Guard duties are maintained by the personnel office of the Service National Guard Center where the veteran is serving.
(d) Retirees’ Records. These records are maintained by the Branch of Service that the veteran retired from. Upon the death of the veteran, the records are sent to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC).
(e) Temporary Disability Retired Lists (TDRL). Records of veterans on TDRL are kept by the personnel office of the Branch of Service. If the veteran is subsequently retired due to permanent disability, these records are sent to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC).
(f) General Officer. All General Officer records are kept at the Pentagon.
When there is no claim for VA benefits prepared prior to separation, the dental and outpatient medical records are normally forwarded to the VA Records Management Center (RMC) in St. Louis, MO.
Note: Although NARA operates NPRC, references in this chapter to "the service department" include NPRC as it is one of the most important repositories of service department records.