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M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, Chapter 2, Section A – General Information on Service Records

Overview


In This Section

This section contains the following topics:
Topic
Topic Name
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9

1.  General Information on Service Records


Introduction

This topic contains general information on STRs, including

Change Date

March 7, 2019

III.iii.2.A.1.a.Definition:
Service Records

Service records are records created during a service member’s period(s) of military service.  The three main categories of service records are
  • service treatment records (STRs)
  • military personnel records, and
  • clinical records.
 Reference:  For more information on obtaining

III.iii.2.A.1.b.  Definition:
STRs

Service treatment records (STRs) are the chronological records (electronic or paper) documenting the medical and/or dental care and treatment received primarily outside of a hospital (i.e – outpatient) during service.  The records may contain a synopsis of any inpatient hospital care and/or mental health treatment related to the service members’ service.  (For many years, they were referred to as service medical records (SMRs)).
Original, paper versions of STRs in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA’s) possession belong to the Department of Defense (DoD) and are only on loan to VA.  They are subject to recall by entities within DoD, to include Reserve and National Guard units.
Note:  STRs are typically recalled when a Veteran
  • returns to active duty, or
  • begins actively serving in a Reserve or National Guard unit.
Reference:  For more information on handling requests for the return of original STRs, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.A.6.a.

III.iii.2.A.1.c.  Definition:  Clinical Records

Clinical records are comprised of a variety of health care treatment records that document a service member’s treatment at a military treatment facility (MTF).
Clinical records are classified as the following:
  • inpatient clinical records (or mental health treatment at an MTF)
  • military retiree medical records (these records do not include active duty medical records), and
  • inpatient and outpatient dependent medical records.
Reference:  For more information on obtaining clinical records, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.B.4.

III.iii.2.A.1.d.Definition:
Personnel Records

Personnel records are administrative records, containing information about the service member’s service history such as
  • date and type of enlistment/appointment
  • duty stations and assignments
  • training, qualifications, performance (awards and decorations received)
  • disciplinary and other personnel actions, and
  • date and type of separation/discharge/retirement (including DD Form 214,Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, or equivalent).

III.iii.2.A.1.e.  Types of Records Included in STRs

The table below contains a list of the types of records that are and are not included in a service member’s STRs.
STRs include …
STRs do not include …
  • physical examination reports, including reports from entrance and discharge physical examinations, if performed
  • the service member’s medical history
  • all dental examination reports and records
  • clinical record cover sheets and summaries
  • outpatient medical and dental treatment records
  • physical profiles
  • medical board proceedings, and
  • prescriptions for eyeglasses and orthopedic footwear
  • inpatient treatment records (clinical records)
  • finance records
  • mental health records, or
  • the Military Personnel Record Jacket (MPRJ), which may contain physical profiles and medical board proceedings
Note:  If a service member obtains treatment “off-base” at a civilian facility, any medical or mental health records created during the course of treatment are notautomatically associated with the service member’s STRs.
References:  For more information on

III.iii.2.A.1.f.  STRs Considered Substantially Complete for Records Development Purposes

STRs received from a service department or records facility are considered substantially complete for records development purposes if they contain
  • at least one of the documents listed in M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.A.1.efor each period of qualifying service, or
  • the certification letter/DD Form 2963, Service Treatment Record (STR) Certification.

Important:  When the records provided are inconsistent with the circumstances of the Veteran’s service, such as a clear lack of records for an extended period of service,

  • preparation of a final notification letter is warranted, and
  • further development to the records custodian is not warranted, unless otherwise required based on special circumstances, as indicated in M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.B.2.c.
References:  For more information on

2.  Instructions for Handling Service Records


Introduction

This topic contains instructions for handling service records, including

Change Date

April 21, 2016

III.iii.2.A.2.a.Protecting Service Records

Service records are critical in determining a claimant’s entitlement to VA benefits.  When handling original, paper versions of these records, VA employees must make all reasonable efforts to protect their integrity, appearance, and readability.  Employees may not
  • make marks on, date stamp, or punch holes in original service records
  • remove STRs from an STR jacket (unless necessary for photocopying), or
  • rearrange the order in which STRs are filed down in an STR jacket.
Exceptions:
  • DD Forms 214, may be
    • stamped or annotated to reflect verification of service, and/or
    • reverse-filed on the inside of the right-hand flap of the claims folder for ease of identification.
  • Protective envelopes may be punched or date-stamped as long as the contents are not affected.
Regional offices (ROs) must follow the instructions in the table below if
  • the thickness of a Veteran’s service records exceeds one inch, or
  • the thickness of a Veteran’s claims folder exceeds two and one-half inches when his/her service records are placed in it.
Step
Action
1
Establish another volume of the Veteran’s claims folder.
2
File the service records in the new volume.
3
Annotate the outside of the right flap of the first volume of the claims folder with indelible marker, identifying the location of the STRs in the other volume(s) of the claims folder.
Important:  When moving a claims folder with multiple volumes from place to place, ensure all volumes of the claims folder remain together.

III.iii.2.A.2.b.  Storage of Original STRs by ROs

When a claims folder is established, do not return the Veteran’s STRs to a service department or the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), unless a specific request is received.
Note: If the original, paper version of a Veteran’s STRs are in an RO’s possession, that RO must
  • store the STRs in the same STR jacket in which they arrived from the Veteran’s service department, and
  • file the STRs in the center section of the Veteran’s claims folder.
Exception:  If the STR jacket in which STRs arrived has been destroyed, ROs may store the STRs in VA Form 21-4582, Service Department Records Envelope.
Reference:  For more information on handling requests for the return of original STRs, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.A.6.a.

III.iii.2.A.2.c.Handling Photocopies of Service Records

Follow the instructions in the table below upon receipt of photocopies of service records.
If the photocopies were submitted by …
Then …
a claimant or his/her power of attorney (POA)
follow the instructions in M21-1, Part IV, Subpart ii, 2.A.3.a.
an entity or someone other than a claimant or his/her POA
Important:  ROs have no authority to dispose of original service records.
Reference:  For more information on RO storage of original service records, seeM21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.A.2.a and b.

III.iii.2.A.2.d.Storage of Paper Copies of Service Records by ROs

In order to prevent loss of or damage to paper copies of service records, ROs must
  • store them in VA Form 21-4582, and
  • file them down in the center section of the appropriate claims folder.

III.iii.2.A.2.e.  Proper Handling of VA Form 21-4582

In order to ensure the contents of VA Form 21-4582 remain protected, VA employees
  • are responsible for repairing or replacing the envelope if it gets damaged or becomes too worn to use, and
  • should never slit the sides or bottoms of the envelope to remove records.

III.iii.2.A.2.f.Handling Fire-Damaged Service Records

On July 12, 1973, a fire at NPRC destroyed a significant number of service records.  When an RO sends a request to NPRC for records that were damaged but not destroyed by the fire, the VA Records Management Center (RMC) Liaison Office (VALO), which shares office space with NPRC, responds to the request by providing photocopies of the damaged STRs.  The original records normally remain at NPRC.
If the VALO inadvertently sends original, fire-damaged STRs to an RO, the RO must
  • carefully make photocopies of the STRs for the claims folder, and
  • return the original, fire-damaged STRs to the VALO.
Notes:
  • Until recently, original, fire-damaged records were routinely sent to and retained by ROs.  Upon receipt of these records, ROs
    • made photocopies of the original records
    • placed the original records in a VA Form 21-4582 that was prominently marked BURNED ORIGINAL RECORDS.  DO NOT REMOVE.
    • placed the photocopies in a separate VA Form 21-4582 that was prominently marked COPIES OF DAMAGED RECORDS, and
    • filed both forms in the corresponding claims folder.
  • Upon discovery of a VA Form 21-4582 containing original, fire-damaged records, leave the records in the claims folder.  Do not attempt to return them to the VALO or NPRC.
Reference:  For more information about service records that might have been damaged by the fire at NPRC, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.E.1.

III.iii.2.A.2.g.Handling Service Records on Microfiche

If there is a paper claims folder, service records on microfiche should be stored in the envelope in which VA received them and then placed in VA Form 21-4582 to prevent loss or damage.
Do not staple through the microfiche, since doing so could destroy images of relevant records.
Notes:
  • If the frequent and/or immediate review of records on microfiche is necessary because, for example, a claim is pending, it might be advantageous to
    • make a hard copy of the records
    • place the hard copy in an envelope marked Copies of Microfiche, and
    • file down the envelope in the center section of the claims folder.
  • If the folder is electronic, microfiche must be sent to the scanning vendor.
Reference:  For more information on sending electronic media to the scanning vendor, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.F.2.d.

III.iii.2.A.2.h.Handling STRs That Contain a DNA Specimen

In June 1992, DoD Health Affairs began collecting deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) specimens to aid in the identification of the remains of deceased service members.  This collection provides for two sets of DNA specimens.  Each specimen is sealed in a small shipping pouch that is labeled with its contents.  Then,
  • one pouch is sent to the DoD Specimen Repository in Dover, Delaware, and
  • the other pouch is placed in the corresponding service member’s STRs.
VA has no need for DNA specimens and has removed most of them from the STRs in its possession.  Nevertheless, the discovery of these specimens may occur during the routine review of STRs.  When found, these specimens should be destroyed.
Follow the procedures described in the table below upon discovering a DNA specimen in a Veteran’s STRs.
Step
Action
1
Extract the shipping pouch containing the DNA specimen from the STRs and destroy it by either shredding or incineration. (Disposing of the pouch in any other way, to include giving it to the Veteran, is prohibited.)
Note:  Although the specimen is not biohazardous, do not open the shipping pouch.
2
Place documentation in the STRs that
  • indicates a DNA specimen was found and destroyed, and
  • identifies the
    • type of destruction (shredding or incineration), and
    • date of destruction.
Reference:  M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.A.2.j contains a sample of the documentation referenced in this step.
Note:  VA is not obligated to notify a Veteran when it destroys his/her DNA specimen.

III.iii.2.A.2.i.  Responding to a Veteran’s Inquiry About His/Her DNA Specimen

If a Veteran makes an inquiry about his/her DNA specimen, VA is only obligated to inform the Veteran whether a specimen was found in his/her STRs and, if so, whether the specimen was destroyed.
The table below references sample letters for responding to a Veteran’s inquiry about his/her DNA specimen.
If …
Then refer to the sample letter shown in …
a DNA specimen is/was of record
no DNA specimen is/was of record
Important:  Never dispose of a DNA specimen by giving it to the Veteran.

III.iii.2.A.2.j.  Sample Documentation of the Destruction of a DNA Specimen

The exhibit below represents a sample of the type of documentation that must be placed in a Veteran’s STRs when VA destroys his/her DNA specimen.
Note:  The use of a specific form to document this action is not required.
A DNA specimen was found in the STRs.
The sample was destroyed by: [circle one]
incineration
shredding
on____________ [date] by ____________________ [signature and job title].

III.iii.2.A.2.k.  Sample Letter for Responding to an Inquiry When STRs Did Contain a DNA Specimen

Prepare a letter, following the format of the letter below, and send it to the Veteran when
  • he/she inquires about the DNA specimen in his/her STRs, and
  • a DNA specimen was of record but has been destroyed.
[File Number]
[Veteran’s Name]
Dear [Veteran’s Name]:
We have received your inquiry regarding your DNA Reference Specimen in your service treatment records, which are currently in VA custody.
The same was destroyed by [burning/shredding] on [date], in accordance with VBA Circular 21-98-1, dated May 18, 1998, and M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.A.2.h.
If you have any further questions about DNA specimens, you should contact:
Armed Forces Medical Examiner System
ATTN: AFRSSIR
115 Purple Heart Drive
Dover Air Force Base, DE 19902
(302) 346-8800
Sincerely,
Regional Office Director

III.iii.2.A.2.l.  Sample Letter For Responding to an Inquiry When STRs Never Contained a DNA Specimen

Prepare a letter, following the format of the letter below, and send it to the Veteran when
  • he/she inquires about the DNA specimen in his/her STRs, and
  • the STRs never contained a DNA specimen.
[File Number]
[Veteran’s Name]
Dear [Veteran’s Name]:
We have received your inquiry regarding your DNA Reference Specimen in your service treatment records, which are currently in VA custody.
Our records do not show a DNA specimen was included in the service treatment records in our custody.
If you have any further questions about DNA specimens, you should contact:
Armed Forces Medical Examiner System
ATTN: AFRSSIR
115 Purple Heart Drive
Dover Air Force Base, DE 19902
(302) 346-8800
Sincerely,
Regional Office Director

3.  NPRC


Introduction

This topic contains information on NPRC, including

Change Date

March 7, 2019

III.iii.2.A.3.a.NARA

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
  • is an independent agency, separate from both VA and DoD, and
  • operates NPRC in St. Louis.
Important:  Although NARA operates NPRC, references in this chapter to “the service department” include NPRC, since it is a primary repository of service department records.

III.iii.2.A.3.b.Types of Records NPRC Houses

NPRC houses the following types of records:
References:  For information about

III.iii.2.A.3.c.  Determining the Date a Former Service Member’s Service Ended

For the purpose of this section, a former service member’s service ended on the date he/she
  • retired
  • was released from active duty with
    • no further service obligation, or
    • a service obligation but was
      • placed in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), or
      • not immediately assigned to a Reserve unit, or
  • completed his/her service obligation in the Reserve or National Guard.

III.iii.2.A.3.d.STRs NPRC Houses

Use the information in the table below to determine whether NPRC houses a former service member’s STRs.
NPRC houses a former service member’s STRs if he/she last served in the …
And his/her service ended prior to …
Army
October 16, 1992.
Navy
January 31, 1994.
Air Force
  • May 1, 1994, if discharged, retired, or separated from active duty, or
  • June 1, 1994, if discharged or retired from the Reserve or National Guard.
Marine Corps
May 1, 1994.
Coast Guard
May 1, 1998.
Reference:  For information about locating STRs of former service members whose service ended on or after the dates shown in the table above, see

III.iii.2.A.3.e.  Personnel Records NPRC Houses

Use the information in the table below to determine whether NPRC houses a former service member’s personnel records.
NPRC houses a former service member’s personnel records if he/she last served in the …
And had no service (active duty or otherwise) on or after …
Army
October 1, 1994.
Important:  Service members discharged between October 1, 1994, and October 1, 2002, may have records stored at NPRC.
Navy
January 1, 1995.
Air Force
October 1, 2004.
Marine Corps
January 1, 1999.
Exception:  NPRC continues to house personnel records for the Coast Guard,except for its service members who are assigned to an active Reserve unit. The personnel records of these service members remain with their respective units.
Reference:  For more information on the location of Army official military personnel files and the means for requesting copies, see

III.iii.2.A.3.f. How Records Are Filed at NPRC

NPRC maintains a registry of most of the service records in its custody.  These records are filed by the former service member’s name and
  • Social Security number (SSN), or
  • service number.
Clinical records are filed by hospital name or number, then chronologically by year, or month and year, of treatment.
Note:  The MTF that provided treatment
  • creates and maintains clinical records, and
  • normally retires its records to NPRC when there has been no treatment for a certain number of years.
Reference:  For more information on clinical records, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.B.4.

III.iii.2.A.3.g.NPRC’s Records Reconstruction Unit

NPRC’s Records Reconstruction Unit relies on unit records and other alternative documents to reconstruct records destroyed in the 1973 fire at NPRC.
Reference:  For more information on records destroyed by fire at NPRC, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.E.1.

III.iii.2.A.3.h.Using PIES to Request Service Records

PIES is the primary means ROs use to request STRs and personnel records from NPRC.  Such requests are electronically matched against NPRC’s registry holdings to determine whether NPRC has custody of the record an RO is requesting.
Note:  If an RO requests STRs for a Veteran who has an electronic claims folder (eFolder) in the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS), NPRC does notsend the STRs to the RO.  Instead, it sends the STRs to a vendor for scanning and uploading into the Veteran’s eFolder.
Reference:  For more information on PIES, see

III.iii.2.A.3.i.Negative Responses From NPRC

Submission of a request for records to NPRC after receiving a response indicating that the records do not exist or are “fire-related” is unnecessary.
Notes:
  • If NPRC eventually receives the requested record, which rarely occurs, it will forward the record to the scanning vendor.
  • Submitting subsequent requests only increases the workload at NPRC and detracts from the activities of those who are attempting to locate records that do, indeed, exist.
Reference:  For more information on documenting the unavailability of Federal records, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 1.C.1.e.

4.  General Information on RMC and the Records it Previously Maintained


Introduction

This topic contains general information on RMC and the records it previously maintained, including

Change Date

March 7, 2019

III.iii.2.A.4.a.  Records RMC Stored

RMC replaced the Service Medical Records Center (SMRC) (375) and Records Processing Center (RPC) (376).  RMC stored
Exceptions:
  • The Coast Guard sent STRs to RMC for storage and maintenance until September 1, 2014.
  • RMC had transferred some of the original STRs it received from service departments to individual ROs for storage in an existing
    • claims folder, or
    • notice of death (NOD) folder.
Notes:
  • If a service member is immediately assigned to a Reserve unit after being released from active duty, his/her service department sends the service member’s STRs to that unit for storage and maintenance.
  • Occasionally, RMC received STRs from service departments for former service members whose service ended prior to the dates shown in M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.A.3.d.  When this occurred, RMC kept the records.  For this reason, RMC might have had in its custody the STRs of a few former service members who separated prior to the dates shown in M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.A.3.d.
  • To determine if RMC possessed a specific, former service member’s STRs prior to the File Bank Extraction project, check the Beneficiary Identification and Records Locator Subsystem (BIRLS) FOLDER LOCATION tab in Share.
References:  For more information about

III.iii.2.A.4.b.  How RMC Stored Records

Before the deployment of DoD’s Healthcare Artifacts and Images Management Solution (HAIMS) on January 1, 2014, when a service department transferred a former service member’s STRs to RMC, it sent the STRs in either a single or multiple STR jackets.  Each jacket bore the former service member’s name and SSN.
  • RMC left the STRs in the jackets in which they arrived and filed them in sequential order by SSN.
  • If a former service member had multiple STR jackets, and RMC received a request for transfer of his/her STRs, RMC was responsible for sendingall of the former service member’s STR jackets to the scanning vendor.
Reference:  For more information about HAIMS, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.A.4.e.

III.iii.2.A.4.c.  Historical Responsibilities of RMC for STR Maintenance

RMC was responsible for
  • transferring STRs to a vendor that digitizes (scans) the STRs and uploads them into the Veteran’s eFolder
  • maintaining STRs for those Veterans
    • who do not have a claims folder located at an RO, or
    • whose inactive claims folder was located at RMC or is at a Federal records center
  • responding to all requests for copies of documents from STRs housed at RMC, and
  • returning STRs to service departments upon receipt of a request.
Note:  Prior to electronic claims processing, RMC sent the STRs to the RO in possession of the Veteran’s paper claims folder.

III.iii.2.A.4.d.  Extraction and Cataloguing of STRs Stored in RMC File Banks

VA began a project to extract STRs stored in the RMC file banks for the purpose of digitizing the records and uploading them into the corresponding eFolder.
The first phase of the File Bank Extraction project at RMC began on November 27, 2017, and concluded on September 21, 2018.  The first phase resulted in the full inventory of STRs pulled from RMC file banks being catalogued in the RMC SMTS Portal.  The inventoried STRs have been sent to the scanning vendor and are no longer in RMC’s possession.
Claims processors can check the status of a scanning request, or request expedited scanning of STRs, after searching for the records using the former service member’s Social Security number (SSN).
Important:  Consider the following message a negative response for STRs: “File not found.”  Save a screenshot of the message and associate it with the claims folder.
Notes:
  • Scanning of a former service member’s records will be prioritized upon the establishment of a
    • claims folder in the Control of Veterans Records System (COVERS), or
    • claim using VBMS or Share.
  • The project will continue until all records have been digitized and uploaded to the corresponding eFolder.
  • RMC still may receive STRs from the Public Health Service (PHS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), however, treatment records are usually maintained at their own facilities.  In the event RMC receives STRs, the records will be sent to the scanning vendor for upload into the eFolder.
References:  For more information on

III.iii.2.A.4.e.  DoD’s Decision to Electronically Maintain and Store STRs in HAIMS

In 2014, the various service departments stopped sending STRs to RMC for storage and maintenance and began
  • scanning/digitizing the service member’s STRs, and
  • uploading them into HAIMS.
Use the table below to determine when a service member’s STRs became digitally available through HAIMS.
If the service member served in …
And separated from service …
Then the  …
the US Coast Guard
between
  • May 1, 1998, and
  • August 31, 2014
status of a scanning request can be found or a request to expedite scanning can be made in the RMC SMTS Portal.
on or after September 1, 2014
records should be available through HAIMS.
all other military branches
between
status of a scanning request can be found or a request to expedite scanning can be made in the RMC SMTS Portal.
on or after January 1, 2014
records should be available through HAIMS.
References:  For more information about

5.  Historical Transfer of STRs Into and out of RMC


Introduction

This topic contains information about the transfer of STRs into and out of RMC prior to the File Bank Extraction project, including

Change Date

March 7, 2019

III.iii.2.A.5.a.  Historical use of SMRTS

Prior to the deployment of HAIMS, RMC received STRs from service departments and recorded their receipt in the Service Medical Records Tracking System (SMRTS).
SMRTS interfaced with Share and provided RMC with a uniform method for managing and tracking the movement of STRs into and out of RMC.

III.iii.2.A.5.b.  Historical Interaction Between SMRTS, Share, and COVERS

The table below contains a description of the interaction between SMRTS, Share, and COVERS prior to the File Bank Extraction project.
When …
And if the former service member had/has …
Then …
RMC
  • received a former service member’s STRs from his/her service department (prior to the deployment of HAIMS), or
  • received a former service member’s STRs from the Coast Guard, PHS, or NOAA
a VA claims folder that was/is in an RO’s possession
RMC sent the STRs to a vendor for scanning and upload into the former service member’s eFolder.
This action triggered an update to the fields on the BIRLS FOLDER LOCATION tab in Share to show the STRs were in transit.
a corporate record but no VA claims folder
fields on the BIRLS FOLDER LOCATION tab in Share were updated to show the STRs were located at RMC.
no VA corporate record
a corporate record was created based on the former service member’s name and SSN.
Note:  The new corporate record might not contain complete service data, but fields on the BIRLS FOLDER LOCATION tab in Share were populated to show the STRs were located at RMC.
STRs were located at RMC for a former service member and an RO established a
  • claims folder in COVERS, or
  • claim using VBMS or Share
a request was automatically generated for RMC to send the STRs to a vendor for scanning and upload into the former service member’s eFolder.
Notes:
  • The request referenced in the above paragraph wasnot generated when an RO establishes any other type of folder, such as an NOD folder.
  • ROs may assume that the automatic generation of a request for STRs was successful if the date the RO established the claim or claims folder appears in the IN TRANSIT DATE field on the BIRLS FOLDER LOCATION tab in Share.
References:  For more information on

III.iii.2.A.5.c.  RMC Intake Site Codes

The INTAKE tab in VBMS can also be used to review details about records that have been shipped from RMC (station code 376) to the scanning vendor.
The table below identifies what each RMC intake site code means.
If the record was handled by intake site  …
Then …
A
a paper claims folder was sent to the scanning vendor and could contain STRs if the records were previously combined.
  • B, or
  • F
all records were sent to the scanning vendor.
C
STRs were sent to the vendor and should not contain a paper claims folder.
D
records scanned
  • prior to May 2017, were scanned on-site at RMC, and
  • from May 2017 and onward, were scanned off-site by the scanning vendor.
E
Official Military Personnel File documents were sent to the scanning vendor by the VALO staff.
Note:  The INTAKE tab is generally only available to Intake Processing Center employees.
Reference:  For more information on the INTAKE tab in VBMS, see the VBMS User Guide.

III.iii.2.A.5.d.  Photocopies of STRs for NOD Folders

RMC sent a former service member’s STRs to the scanning vendor only if an RO specifically requested it.
Note:  When RMC sent the STRs to the scanning vendor, the date the RO made the request appears in the IN TRANSIT DATE field on the BIRLS FOLDER LOCATION tab in Share.  The TRANSFER DATE field on the same tab reflects the date the STRs were sent to the scanning vendor.

6.  Handling Requests for the Return of STRs in the VA’s Possession


Change Date

June 13, 2018

III.iii.2.A.6.a.  Handling Requests for the Return of STRs in VA’s Possession

Upon receipt of a request from a service department for the return of a Veteran’s original STRs, take the following actions if the RO is still in possession of the paper claims folder and STRs:
  • photocopy the STRs
  • certify the photocopy as true and correct
  • place the photocopies in VA Form 21-4582 and file them in the center section of the Veteran’s claims folder
  • place a copy of the request in the center section of the Veteran’s claims folder
  • return the original STRs to the service department that requested them, and
  • annotate the copy of the request to show
    • where the original STRs were sent, and
    • the date on which they were sent.
Note:  Photocopies of STRs, in lieu of original STRs, are acceptable for the Air Force (SAF/MIBR) at Randolph Air Force Base if VA is holding the claims folder because it is eligible for Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims review.
Reference:  For more information on who is responsible for responding to the service department request for records see M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.H.

7.  DD Form 214


Introduction

This topic contains information on DD Form 214, including

Change Date

April 21, 2016

III.iii.2.A.7.a.  When Service Departments Provide VA With a Certificate of Release

Service departments provide VA with a copy of a service member’s DD Form 214or other appropriate certificate of release
  • if/when the service member files a claim for VA benefits at the time of separation, or
  • when the service member is released from active duty.
Note:  Prior to the deployment of HAIMS on January 1, 2014, service departments included a copy of DD Form 214 with the STRs they provided to VA.

III.iii.2.A.7.b.  Notices of Separation That PHS and NOAA Use

PHS and NOAA do not use DD Form 214 as their official notice of separation.  Instead
  • PHS uses PHS Form 1867Statement of Service-Verification of Status of Commissioned Officers of the U.S. Public Health Service, and
  • NOAA uses NOAA Form 56-16Report of Transfer or Discharge.

III.iii.2.A.7.c.  Notices of Separation Provided to the VADS Unit

The following notices of separation are routinely provided to the Veterans Assistance Discharge System (VADS) unit at the Austin Data Processing Center, where data from the notices are manually entered into the corporate record
  • PHS Form 1867, and
  • NOAA Form 56-16.
Note:  If the VADS unit is unable to update the corporate record with data from the documents referenced above, the unit forwards the documents to RMC for manual entry into the corporate record.

III.iii.2.A.7.d.  Handling Copies of DD Form 214 in an STR Document in VBMS

In some cases, during the scanning of paper documents into an eFolder in VBMS, the DD Form 214 was scanned with the STRs.
When a DD Form 214 is part of the STR document in the eFolder, RO employees must ensure the DD Form 214 is properly idenitfied.  This must be done either by
  • ensuring the subject line of the STR document identifies the inclusion of the certified DD Form 214, or
  • adding a bookmark indicating the certified DD Form 214 is included in the STR document.
References:  For more information on

III.iii.2.A.7.e.Handling Paper Copies of DD Form 214 Received From RMC

Prior to the deployment of HAIMS on January 1, 2014, service departments included a copy of DD Form 214 with the STRs they sent to RMC.  When RMC transferred STRs to an RO, it included the copy of the DD Form 214 in the STRs.  ROs may accept the copy as valid for the purpose of verifying a Veteran’s service.
Follow the instructions in the table below for handling a copy of a DD Form 214 that RMC included in a Veteran’s STRs if there is a paper claims folder.
Step
Action
1
Look for RMC’s “received” date stamp on the DD Form 214.
2
Does the date stamp appear on the DD Form 214?
  • If yes, proceed to Step 5.
  • If no, proceed to the next step.
3
Annotate the DD Form 214 on the lower, right-hand margin or back of the form with DD Form 214 received from RMC.
4
Sign, provide job title, and date the DD Form 214 on the lower, right-hand margin or back of the form.
5
Reverse-file the DD Form 214 on the inside of the right-hand flap of the claims folder.
Reference:  For more information about HAIMS, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.A.4.e.

III.iii.2.A.7.f.  Service Information in the Corporate Record

Corporate records may be created or, in the case of an existing record, updated to reflect service information received from a service department.
Share indicates the existence of a VADS record with a Y or a D in the VADS field on the Veterans identification tab.
References:  For more information on

8.  Reports of Casualty


Introduction

This topic contains information on reports of casualty, including


Change Date

March 27, 2017

III.iii.2.A.8.a.  Documentation Provided to VA When a Service Member Dies

When a service member dies in service, the following documentation is sent to the Philadelphia RO, along with either DD Form 1300Report of Casualty, or PHS Form 2709Report of Death of Commissioned Officer
  • reports of investigation
  • statements of medical examination and duty status, and/or
  • reports of facts and circumstance.
Note:  The Philadelphia RO might also receive a DD Form 1300 when a retired service member or Reservist dies.

III.iii.2.A.8.b.  Actions the Philadelphia RO Takes Upon Receipt of Notice of an In-Service Death

When the Philadelphia RO receives notice of an in-service death, it
Reference:  For more information on establishing a folder during FNOD processing, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 8.B.2.j.

III.iii.2.A.8.c.  Development of Cases Involving In-Service Death From Suicide

If VA receives a claim for death benefits, and the cause of death was in-service suicide, the rating activity must determine whether the service member was of unsound mind when he/she committed the act.  The rating activity should consider an in-service death from suicide as evidence of mental unsoundness unless the evidence establishes that the act of self-destruction was intentional.  Generally, a person of unsound mind is incapable of forming intent, which is an essential element of willful misconduct.
When a DD Form 1300 or other notification of an in-service suicide is of record, refer the document(s) to the rating activity.  If the evidence is insufficient for a rating decision on the in-service suicide, take the following actions:
  • Initiate development to the service member’s service department for any records pertaining to an investigation of the circumstances surrounding the service member’s death, using
    • VBMS or the Modern Award Processing-Development (MAP-D), and/or
    • PIES or the Defense Personnel Image Retrieval System (DPRIS).
  • Simultaneously initiate development to the claimant for any information or copies of reports or investigations pertaining to the service member’s death.
Important:  Service departments do not always make a line-of-duty determination if there is no surviving spouse or dependent child who would be eligible for payment of survivor benefits.  Therefore, supporting evidence such as medical and police reports might have to be obtained before the rating activity can make a decision on the issue of mental unsoundness.  Reasonable doubt should be resolved favorably to support a finding of mental unsoundness and service connection in accordance with the provisions of 38 CFR 3.302(b)(3).
References:  For information about

III.iii.2.A.8.d.  Interim Reports of Death

If all pertinent information is not available, an interim report is furnished to establish the fact and date of death for purposes of initiation and development of a claim.
Important:  Interim reports of death may not be used as the basis for determining the effective date of an initial award under M21-1, Part IV, Subpart iii, 3.H.3.

III.iii.2.A.8.e.  Reports from Service Department Finance Centers

Service department finance centers supplement reports of in-service deaths by furnishing DD Form 1515, Pay and Allotment Information–Deceased Member, certifying the final settlement of allowances, allotments and service pay.
Reference:  For more information on the award action to take when the information necessary to process an award is of record, see M21-1, Part IV, Subpart iii, 3.H.3.

9.  Requests From Department of VAMCs for Service Records/Information


Introduction

This topic contains information on requests from VAMCs for service records/information, including


Change Date

March 27, 2017

III.iii.2.A.9.a.  How VAMCs Should Request Service Records

VA medical centers (VAMCs) may use the Veterans Information Solution (VIS) to verify a Veteran’s service.  If VIS does not provide service verification, or if VAMCs require clinical records or other service-related documentation, they should request it by sending VA Form 10-7131Exchange of Beneficiary Information and Request for Administrative and Adjudicative Action, to the appropriate RO.
Note:  It is VA policy that only ROs may request service records.
Reference:  For information on VIS, see the VIS User Guide.

III.iii.2.A.9.b.  Handling Requests From a VAMC When No Claims Folder Exists

The table below contains instructions for handling requests for service records/information from a VAMC when no claims folder exists.
If the VAMC requests …
Then …
a character-of-discharge (COD) determination
  • establish a claims folder
  • request the evidence required to make a COD determination
  • when the evidence arrives, make the determination, and
  • notify the VAMC that requested the determination of its outcome.
Note:  If the VAMC asks to review the evidence used to make the COD determination, temporarily transfer the entire claims folder to the VAMC. Before doing so, annotate the COVERS transmittal sheet with the following text: Folder temporarily transferred per 10-7131 dated [MM/DD/YYYY]Return the entire folder when action is complete.
Reference:  For information about making a character-of-discharge determination, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart v, 1.B.
verification of service only
  • create a corporate record using the BIRLS ADD command in Share
  • request verification of service through
    • PIES (request code S01), or
    • DPRIS
  • update Share when verification is received, and
  • notify the VAMC that initiated the request.
References:  For more information about using
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