Service treatment records (STRs) are the chronological medical records of a service member. STRs should include all medical, dental, and psychiatric treatment a Veteran received while in the Armed Forces. These records are key to your VA disability claim. Service treatment records can provide evidence of an injury, event, or disease that is necessary to obtain service connection for a current condition.
Unfortunately, STRs can be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain. Veterans can sometimes request them directly from the military archives or through a VA Copy of File request. However, many records, particularly those of older Veterans, have been lost or misplaced through the years. The VA often blames lost records on a 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO.
Please know that according to VA reports, this fire destroyed 80 percent of records belonging to Soldiers discharged from the Army between November 1, 1912, and January 1, 1960. The fire also destroyed most Airmen’s records who were discharged from the Air Force between September 25, 1947, and January 1, 1964, with the surname of beginning with “Hubbard” through the end of the alphabet. If the VA cannot locate a Veteran’s records and blames it on a fire, that Veteran should make sure he or she falls into one of these two categories. If not, the VA may have misinformed the Veteran about the whereabouts of their records.
Without a Veteran’s Service Treatment Records, obtaining a grant for service connection can be very difficult. However, if the VA or military lost a Veteran’s records, the VA has a higher obligation to assist the Veteran in developing their case as well as the heightened obligation to evaluate and discuss all favorable evidence.
Along with STRs, a Veteran’s military personnel record can also be helpful to prove a claim. Personnel records are not automatically submitted to a Veteran’s VA Copy of File. However, if a Veteran thinks their military personnel record could help with their claim, a written request will require the VA to obtain any available military personnel records from the National Personnel Records Center. These records are particularly helpful for mental health and significant injury claims. If a Veteran is the victim of military sexual trauma (MST), these records may contain corroborating evidence such as disciplinary or incident reports. If a Veteran’s unit was in a fire fight while deployed or stationed on a ship that suffered damage, these personnel records may include reports of the incidents.
STRs and military personnel records are critical to support a Veteran’s claim for service connection. While it is the VA’s duty to obtain them, all Veterans should actively take steps to ensure the VA fulfills this duty. Without these records, Veterans may face a difficult battle against the VA.
If you are a Veteran and you have been denied disability compensation by the VA or received a low rating, Berry Law can help. We have helped Veterans from all 50 states successfully appeal VA claims and have helped thousands of Veterans increase their disability rating. Contact Berry Law today for a free case evaluation.
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