A popular scheme today is scammers attempting to charge Veterans for access to their service records or government forms. Veterans who are transitioning back to civilian life will need to request a copy of their records in order to access certain benefits provided to them. The first copy of a Veteran’s C-file in order to make a claim for benefits is free. Basic military personnel and health record information is also free to Veterans, next-of-kin, and authorized representatives from VA. Veterans also will not be charged a fee when requesting disability compensation and Vocational Rehabilitation records. The duplication fee is waived for the first complete set of records. (38 CFR § 1.577(g)).It should be noted, however, that after 62 years following discharge from the military, the Department of Defense typically transfers a Veteran’s records to the National Archives. For a first-time request for records for the purpose of obtaining benefits, there is no charge. Requests made for other purposes (for example, to retrieve information regarding military assignments, awards received, the names of other soldiers, and details of heroism during battle) may result in the payment of a fee. The National Archives is authorized to collect fees for copies of archival records, usually to offset copying costs (44 USC 2116c and 44 USC 2307). In addition to the first copy of Veteran’s medical records, their discharge paperwork, including DD-214s and other forms, are also available at no cost through their state’s Veterans Affairs Agency, County Veterans Service Offices, and accredited Veterans service organizations. Yet, though the VA and Veteran service organizations have repeatedly warned Veterans and their families, unscrupulous businesses continue to charge them fees to obtain copies of their (free) military service and discharge records. Some websites charge $90 to $150 to obtain copies of DD-214s and other free military records through their “expedited” service, but Veterans Affairs agencies in most states often can provide the requested paperwork within a day or within hours for military funeral honors. All states have benefits counselors where Veterans can receive free assistance. Veterans who encounter companies charging fees for their discharge records or other military paperwork are encouraged to report it to their state’s Veterans Affairs agency. Also, if you or someone you know has encountered such an offer (or has received a job offer that you suspect is a scam), you can join the fight against fraud by sharing your experience at the Fraud Watch Network(877-908-3360). For more information, contact Sandra at the Veterans Service Office at 602 Strong Ave on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 3pm, or call 365-3612.
Sandra G. Van Zant
Veterans County Service Officer