From The Mailbag: Getting Service Records

For as much paperwork is involved with everything done in the military, sometimes it still seems difficult to keep track of all the documentation.  You never know when you are going to need some small detail, or even need to a copy of your entire record.  In theory, all records are available and accessible through the National Archives Veterans Service Records Department.  In reality, there are often errors and omissions in records, making it harder for servicemembers, veterans and their survivors to put together the right documentation for their needs.

A recent letter is typical:

I’m searching for my personal pay records from 2001-2003. I served in Afghanistan and need to prove that to the VA.  Andrew

As always, I try to give a complete answer.  However, my readers often know more than I know.  If you have additional advice for Andrew, please include it in the comments.

Dear Andrew,

As I understand it, such service should be listed on your DD214.  However, there are many documented instances of mis-kept records during that time period.   Upon discharge, your service records become part of the National Archive.  You can request them via their Veterans Service Records website. has a great explanation of the types of records available in Requesting Military Personnel Records.

I hope that helps!


I know from semi-personal experience how challenging it can be to obtain the necessary records.  My best friend’s father died while in the Navy, and she had challenges in obtaining the necessary records for her benefits.  I hope that the system is improving, but based on the Stars and Stripes article I linked in my response, it seems that the situation has not improved overall.  It makes it hard to know when you can throw out those old Leave and Earnings Statements if we can’t rely on DFAS or the national records to be accurate.

Have you had any good or bad experiences with our records system?  I’d love to know.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • David

    Sent for my records a few years ago and received what looks like the majority of them. The information I needed was not included so I cannot prove that I was at Camp LeJeune with Naval Mobile Battalion Number Seven for military training prier to deployment to Gitmo in 1960. Any suggestions that would help?