Military service records are kept by the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) which is under the jurisdiction of the National Archives and Records Administration. The address is The National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records, 9700 Page Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri 63132, fax: 314-801-9195, www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/
The military record sought is known as the DD-214 which is the document that military personnel receive when discharged from the U.S. Navy, Army, Air Force, Marine Corp, or Coast Guard.
The request form used to obtain a DD-214 is known as Form SF-180. The NPRC will release the data if the veteran (or next-of-kin if the veteran is deceased) authorizes the release of information. The authorization must 1) be in writing; 2) specify what additional information or copies are requested that NPRC may release; and 3) include the signature of the veteran or next-of-kin. Otherwise, a request is treated as a FOIA request and a limited amount of information will be released.
Using Form SF-180
This form can be requested in writing from the NPRC or can be downloaded as a pdf file. The form and instructions are found at www.archives.gov/st-louis/military-personnel/standard-form-180.html. Also, the SF-180 can be obtained from the Department of Defense, Federal Information Centers, local Veterans Administration offices, and from veterans' service organizations.
Use of the SF-180 is not mandatory as long as the request is in writing and signed by the requester. But include as much of the following as possible - The veteran's complete name used while in service, the service number or SSN, branch of service, and dates of services if known. The DOB is helpful. If the records were part of the 1973 fire, then including the place of entry, discharge, and last unit of assignment is quite helpful.
The turnaround time for most requests is about 10 days plus mail time. However, requests that involve reconstruction efforts due to the 1973 fire, or older records which require extensive search efforts, may take 4 weeks to 6 months to complete.
About the DD-214
There are actually a number of different copies of the DD-214 with different sets of information. A discharged service person receives Copy 1, which has the least information. Copy 4 gives the nature of the discharge - General, Honorable, Dishonorable, Undesirable - and details of service. There are codes that characterize the service record including SPD (Separation Program Designator), SPN (Separation Program Number) and RE (Re-Entry). For a discharged service person to get Copy 4, the person must actually ask for it.
Per Les Rosen, author of The Safe Hiring Manual: "In order to avoid potential EEOC claims, an employer should treat a dishonorable discharge in the same fashion as a criminal conviction. A general discharge or undesirable discharge may or may not have any bearing on employment and generally should not be the basis of an employment decision."
"The best advice may be to use the basic DD-214 to confirm a person was in fact in the military, then ask for the names of references from their military service to obtain job-related information that would be relevant to an employment decision."
Article from BRB Publications newsletter The Public Record Update©