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M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, Chapter 2, Section I – Control and Follow-Up of Requests for Service Records

Overview


In This Section

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

 

1.  Requests for Records Held by NPRC That Require Priority Handling


Introduction

This topic contains information about requests for records held by NPRC that require priority handling, including

Change Date

April 1, 2019

III.iii.2.I.1.a.  Priority Processing of Requests for Records Held by NPRC in FDCs and Claims Pending Greater Than One Year

Priority handling of requests for records at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) is necessary for fully developed claims (FDCs) and claims for benefits that have been pending for more than one year.
Follow the procedures in the table below for processing requests for records and any necessary follow-up requests.
Step
Action
1
Request the necessary records using the appropriate Personnel Information Exchange System (PIES) request code(s) as outlined inM21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.D.3.
2
Follow-up on the PIES request if it
  • remains in an open status after 30 days, or
  • has been completed for at least 15 days, but the records are not available in the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS).
3
If a follow-up on the PIES request is necessary, send an e-mail, tagged with High Importance, to the appropriate mailbox identified in the table below.
If the claim is …
Then send the follow-up request to …
an FDC
pending longer than one year
4
Associate a copy of the follow-up request e-mail with the claims folder.

III.iii.2.I.1.b.  Priority Processing of Requests for Records Held by NPRC in Other Circumstances

Priority handling of requests for records at NPRC is occasionally necessary under other circumstances.
Claims processors may submit priority PIES requests after obtaining authorization from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Liaison Office (VALO) by sending an e-mail, tagged with High Importance, containing the Veteran’s identification information required to request records.
The table below indicates the mailbox to which claims processors must send the authorization request and any necessary follow-up requests.
Circumstance
VALO Mailbox
  • a Purple Heart recipient
    • submits an original claim, or
    • whose service is the basis of an original death claim
  • emergency admission of a Veteran to a hospital
  • claim involving
    • military sexual trauma, or
    • a disability of a very serious nature, such as carcinoma, paraplegia, or severe burns
  • claim from any Veteran who
    • is diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease
    • was seriously injured/very seriously injured in service and is not in receipt of VA benefits
    • is a former prisoner of war (FPOW)
    • received the Medal of Honor
    • is terminally ill
    • is 85 years of age and older, or
    • is experiencing severe financial hardship, or
  • claim from claimant who is
    • terminally ill
    • a survivor of an FPOW, or
    • experiencing severe financial hardship.
VA receives a claim from a homeless Veteran.
Reference:  See 42 U.S.C. 11302 for the statutory definition of “homelessness.”
Important:
  • After the authorized priority PIES request is submitted, any claims processor may send follow-up e-mails to the mailboxes listed in the table above if the PIES request
    • remains in an Incomplete or Submitted status after 15 days, or
    • has been completed for at least 15 days, but the records are not available in VBMS.
  • The VALO will coordinate with the National Archives and Records Administration to expedite records requests for Veterans over 85 years of age.  However, the majority of these records have been archived or exist in a delicate state due to the fire at NPRC.  A response to the records request may take longer than other expedited requests.
References:  For more information on

 

 2.  Checking the Status of a Request for STRs Previously Stored at RMC or from the Coast Guard


Introduction

This topic contains general information on checking the status of requests for STRs, including checking the status of a request for

Change Date

March 7, 2019

III.iii.2.I.2.a.  Checking the Status of a Request for STRs Previously Stored at RMC

Check the scanning status of service treatment records (STRs) previously stored at the Records Management Center (RMC) using the RMC Source Material Tracking System (SMTS) Portal.
Important:  Claims processors must follow the steps in the table below if VA is awaiting the scanning/upload of STRs that were extracted from RMC.
Step
Action
1
Add the VBMS tracked item Awaiting STR Auto Receipt.
2
Change the tracked item suspense date to match the amount of time remaining on the request.
Example:  If establishing the tracked item
  • 20 days after the request was generated, input 10 in the TRACKED ITEM SUSPENSE field, or
  • 37 days after the request was generated, input 8 days in the TRACKED ITEM SUSPENSE field (45 days total being the initial 30-day suspense period and the additional 15 days of the first follow-up suspense period).
Note:  Consider the following message a negative reply for records: “File not found.”  Save a screenshot of the message and associate it with the claims folder.
References:  For more information on

III.iii.2.I.2.b.  Checking the Status of a Request for Coast Guard STRs via HAIMS

Follow the table below when a Coast Guard service member’s STRs are not received within 45 days from the interface between VBMS and Healthcare Artifacts and Image Management Solution (HAIMS).
If the Coast Guard service member separated/retired from the …
Then submit a request for the STRs using the …
Coast Guard and did not serve with the Coast Guard Reserves
  • submit a request for STRs using the 099 request code in PIES
  • self-address PIES request address code 7 under the Coast Guard tab, and
  • in the 099 request code state
The STRs have not been received from HAIMS within 45 days.  Please contact the Coast Guard Central Cell to locate the STRs and upload the STRs into HAIMS.
Coast Guard Reserves
  • submit a request for STRs using the RV1 request code in PIES, and
  • self-address PIES request address code 7 under the Coast Guard tab.
Note:  When a regional office (RO) submits a proper PIES request, the VALO Guard/Reserve Team (GR5) contacts the Coast Guard for the STRs.
Reference:  For more information on locating and obtaining Coast Guard service records, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.B.9.

 3.  Following up on Requests for Records Submitted Though PIES


Introduction


Change Date

March 7, 2019

III.iii.2.I.3.a.  Following Up on PIES Requests for Records Held by NPRC

Except as noted in M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.I.3.c and d, users may determine the status of any requests they previously submitted for records held by NPRC(PIES address code 13) by viewing the status codes that PIES displays for each request.  Once the VALO at NPRC responds to a request, the overall status of that request changes to CO (closed out).
Because users can readily determine the status of requests they submit for records held by NPRC, follow-up action is unnecessary until the request has
  • remained in an Incomplete or Submitted status for at least 45 days, or
  • been completed for at least 15 days, but the records are not available in VBMS.
Follow up on this type of request by
  • sending an e-mail to the VALO staff at VAVBASTL/RMC/PIESVBMS, or
  • contacting the VALO Transformation 21 (T-21) Customer Service Team by telephone at 314-679-3821.
Exceptions:  When following up on PIES requests for records
Reference:  For more information on PIES

III.iii.2.I.3.b.Following Up on PIES Requests for Records Held by the National Guard or Reserves

When a request for service records presumed to be held by a National Guard or Reserve unit has been submitted to PIES address code 7, users may determine the status of the request by viewing the PIES status codes.
Send a final notification letter to the Veteran when the branch-of-service status code is PL (Pending – submit development letter to Veteran), which indicates that 60 days have lapsed with no indication of the location of the records.  The status code should be considered a negative response to the request.  No additional action should be taken in PIES, as the RO will be notified if the records are located at a later date.
Note:  Send a follow-up email to the VAVBASTL/RMC/NGRESERVES mailbox if an internal message has been displayed for more than 30 days.  Additional e-mails are not required after sending the initial follow-up.
References:  For more information about

III.iii.2.I.3.c.  Following up on PIES Requests for Records Held by Military Pay Centers

Military pay centers are unable to post a response to requests in PIES, therefore the status of the request cannot be monitored electronically through PIES.
Take the actions in the table below when the information requested has not been provided by the end of the 30-day response period.  Once the information is obtained, no further steps need to be completed.
Step
Action
1
Attempt to locate the information in Veteran Information Solution (VIS).
2
Attempt to locate the information in the Defense Finance and Accounting Service Retired and Casualty Pay Subsystem (RCPS).
Note:  Most ROs have at least one user with access to RCPS.
3
When military pay information cannot be obtained using the previous steps, send an encrypted e-mail to the Compensation Service Military Pay corporate mailbox at VAVBAWAS/CO/MILPAY and
  • insert Need Assistance in Verification of [insert type of pay]in the subject line
  • attach a copy of the DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty.
Notes:
  • Update the suspense 15 days while awaiting a response.  If a response has not been received after 15 days, send a follow-up email that
    • includes 15 Day Follow-up: Need Assistance in Verification of [insert type of pay] in the subject line, and
    • identifies the time and date the original request was sent in the body of the e-mail.
  • Upload a copy of all e-mails sent and received into the electronic claims folder (eFolder).
References:  For more information on obtaining

III.iii.2.I.3.d.  Following up on PIES Requests for Personnel Records Held by the Coast Guard PSC 

The Coast Guard Personnel Service Center (PSC) is unable to post a response to requests in PIES, therefore the status of the request cannot be monitored electronically through PIES.
When the information requested from address code 51 has not been provided by the end of the 30-day response period, send a fax to (202) 372-8440.  The faxed request should contain
  • CG Personnel Records – 30 day follow-up request in the subject
  •  the following information in the body of the request:
    • the Veteran’s name and Social Security number (SSN)
    • the date of the initial PIES request
    • a request to provide an estimated date the records will be received by VA, and
    • the mailing address of the scanning vendor, and
  • a copy of the original PIES request.
Important:  Send an unencrypted e-mail to Mary.G.Yates@uscg.mil to coordinate a phone call to discuss case-specific details and complete the follow-up request when fax attempts are unsuccessful.  Document the conversation on VA Form 27-0820, Report of General Information.
Notes:
  • Set the tracked item suspense to match the estimated date provided by the Coast Guard PSC.  If a date is not provided, use the standard follow-up suspense period.
  • Upload a copy of all
    • e-mails sent and received, and
    • phone conversations documented on VA Form 27-0820.

III.iii.2.I.3.e.  Handling Incomplete or Inaccurate Responses to PIES Requests for Records Held by NPRC

Send an e-mail to VAVBASTL/RMC/ERROR if
  • a response to a PIES request for records held by NPRC
    • is incomplete, incorrect, or incomprehensible, or
    • contains information about a different Veteran, or
  • records the VALO provided in response to a PIES request do not arrive within five business days.

 

4.  Requests for Records Through DPRIS


Introduction

This topic contains general information on requests for records through DPRIS, including

Change Date

June 13, 2018

III.iii.2.I.4.a.  Requesting Service Personnel Records Through DPRIS

Service personnel records of Veterans who were discharged, having no further service obligation, on or after the dates shown below relative to their individual branches of service are available only through the Defense Personnel Records Information Retrieval System (DPRIS):
  • Army – October 1, 1994
  • Navy – January 1, 1995
  • Air Force – October 1, 2004, and
  • Marine Corps – January 1, 1999.
DPRIS pulls electronic copies of service personnel records from image repositories based on information (such as the Veteran’s name, SSN, and branch of service) a user enters when submitting a request for records through this system.  Any erroneous information a user enters may prevent DPRIS from locating the records he/she requests.
Notes:
  • The dates above are subject to change as service departments continue to convert older, paper records into electronic images.
  • Prior to submitting the request through DPRIS, the user must
    • take a screenshot of the personnel records request page that captures the specific details of the request (and no other parts of the claims processor’s screen), and
    • place the screenshot in the claims folder.
  • When uploading the screenshot to the eFolder, use the attributes provided in the table below.
In the document field …
Enter …
SUBJECT
Personnel Records Request Screenshot.
CATEGORY – TYPE
Correspondence – Miscellaneous : Identification Materials.
SOURCE
DPRIS.
DATE OF RECEIPT
the date the request was submitted.
Reference:  For information about using DPRIS, see the DPRIS User Guide.

III.iii.2.I.4.b.  Providing Specific Information in JSRRC Requests

Requests to the Joint Services Records Research Center (JSRRC) for verification of in-service stressors or exposures are submitted through DPRIS.  Military records are organized by units, and further organized by date.  Therefore, JSRRC must know the unit designation down to the lowest possible level and most specific date(s) of the incidents.
To assist JSRRC in conducting optimal research, in addition to the required 60-day research window
  • include the Veteran’s complete tour dates related to the unit of assignment when the incident/exposure occurred, and
  • use the table below to provide complete unit designation information.
If the Veteran served in the …
Then provide …
Army
full unit designation to the company level.
Example:  HHC, 1st Brigade, 2d Armored Division.
Navy
full unit designation and hull numbers for ships.
Example:  USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42).
Reminder:  Some of the ships/units have similar names.
Air Force
squadron and group designations, at a minimum.
Example:  366th Field Maintenance Squadron, 366thCombat Support Group.
Important:  Providing just the wing is insufficient because there are numerous units under a wing and various unit locations.
Notes:
  • Provide precise locations (for example, Seoul, Korea, rather than justKorea).
  • For posttraumatic stress disorder stressor verification, list only onestressor per DPRIS O40, O41, and O42 request.
  • For herbicide exposure verification, provide the circumstances surrounding the Veteran’s exposure, rather than just stating that the Veteran was exposed.
  • A copy of the request must be placed in the claims folder in accordance with M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.I.4.c.
  • If, due to an exceptional circumstance, the need arises to submit a written request, send correspondence to the PIES mailbox atVAVBAWAS/CO/PIES advising of the reason for the exception.

III.iii.2.I.4.c.  Capturing the Details of the JSRRC Request   

Take a screenshot of the JSRRC request page prior to submitting the request through DPRIS.
The screenshot
  • must capture the specific details of the request, and
  • will only capture the request page and no other parts of the claims processor’s screen.
Place a copy of the screenshot in the claims folder.  When uploading the screenshot to the eFolder, use the attributes provided in the table below.
In the document field …
Enter …
SUBJECT
JSRRC Request Screenshot.
CATEGORY – TYPE
Correspondence – Miscellaneous : Identification Materials.
SOURCE
DPRIS.
DATE OF RECEIPT
the date the request was submitted.

III.iii.2.I.4.d.  Following Up on Requests Submitted Through DPRIS

Because DPRIS typically provides responses to requests within one hour, there is no need to follow up on the status of a DPRIS request.
Users should submit a follow-up message to a service department action officer through DPRIS only upon receipt of a response that does not contain the record(s) they requested.
  • If an action officer does not respond to a follow-up message within 30 days,
    • send an email to the PIES Help Desk (VAVBAWAS/CO/PIES), and
    • associate a copy of the e-mail with the claims folder.
  • If attempts to obtain copies of records that should be accessible through DPRIS are unsuccessful, follow the instructions in M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 1.C.1.e.
Exceptions:  Users cannot submit follow-up messages through DPRIS to
  • an Army action officer, or
  • the JSRRC.
Important:  Before sending a follow-up message to an action officer, carefully review the original request to ensure it was valid, complete, and routed to the correct service department.  If it was not, submit a new request.
References:  For information about submitting follow-up messages to

III.iii.2.I.4.e.  Following Up on DPRIS Requests for Army Records

If it becomes necessary to follow up on a DPRIS request for Army records, send anunencrypted e-mail to the Army Human Resources Command (HRC) ataskhrc.army@us.army.mil and associate a copy of the e-mail with the claims folder.  (Because the e-mail is unencrypted, users must not include personally identifiable information in the subject line of the e-mail.)
The e-mail to HRC must contain the following information:
  • Veteran’s full name
  • Veteran’s dates of service
  • last four numbers of the Veteran’s SSN, and
  • a description of the specific records the user is seeking.

III.iii.2.I.4.f.  Following Up on DPRIS Requests to the JSRRC

Although JSRRC researches Federal records to respond to VA’s requests, VA doesnot recognize JSRRC as a Federal records custodian for the purpose of this section.  Accordingly, the response periods for initial and follow-up requests that are referenced in M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 1.C.1.b do not apply to requests VA submits to JSRRC.
Note:  Claims processors may e-mail follow-up requests toVAVBAWAS/CO/JSRRC every 60 days.
Reference:  For more information about submitting requests for corroboration of an in-service stressor to JSRRC, see M21-1, Part IV, Subpart ii, 1.D.4.

5.  General Information on the Position of MRS


Introduction

This topic contains general information on the position of MRS, including

Change Date

November 1, 2017

III.iii.2.I.5.a.  Assignment of and Qualifications for an MRS

Each RO must designate an employee to serve as Military Records Specialist (MRS).
The designated employee must
  • possess expertise in military records, and
  • be thoroughly familiar with the information this chapter contains.

Important:

  • Each RO must designate at least one alternate MRS.
  • If an RO does not have sufficient staffing to designate an MRS, the Veterans Service Center Manager should request an exception to this requirement from the Office of Field Operations.

III.iii.2.I.5.b.  Duties of an MRS

An MRS
  • is responsible for local training on requests for service records
  • serves as the subject matter expert with whom claims processors may collaborate on cases with extenuating circumstances
  • completes the formal finding on evidence of service for fire-related cases, as indicated in M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.E.1.h, and
  • carries out specific responsibilities that are described in M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.I.6 and 7.

III.iii.2.I.5.c.  RMC Responsibility for Maintaining a List of MRSs

VA’s RMC maintains a list of MRSs and their alternates.
E-mail notification of any change in personnel assigned as an MRS or alternate to the following electronic mailbox:  VAVBASTL/RMC/DIR.
If e-mail is not available, mail notification of changes to
Director (00)
VA Records Management Center
PO Box 5020
St Louis, MO  63115-0020
DO NOT OPEN IN MAILROOM
Reference:  For more information about the RO MRS corporate mailbox, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.I.5.d.

III.iii.2.I.5.d.  Electronic Mailboxes for MRSs

Each RO must maintain an electronic mailbox to which its MRSs and their alternates have access.  The mailbox will be used by
  • Compensation Service to disseminate instruction, guidance, and training, and
  • Federal records custodians as a means of communicating with individual ROs.
Note:  ROs must e-mail notification of any changes to the name of the electronic mailbox to the PIES Help Desk (VAVBAWAS/CO/PIES).

6.  Contact With Separation Points


Change Date

March 7, 2019

III.iii.2.I.6.a.  When an MRS Should Request Assistance to Contact a Separation Point

In some instances, a record center may report the separation point never sent the records VA is seeking.
When this occurs, and the Veteran has been out of service more than 60 days, the MRS should contact the VALO for assistance by sending a PIES request under request code O99 to address code 7.  The PIES request should
  • state the
    • prior response from the records center, and
    • separation point, and
  • request the VALO contact the separation point to locate the records.
The VALO will contact the separation point and obtain the records or a statement that the records are not in the possession of the service department.
Important:  The MRS must add the Specialized Records Review special issue indicator to a contention on the corresponding end product (EP) when contacting VALO for assistance.
Reference:  For information on service record migration, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.B.

7.  MRS Requests for Assistance from Compensation Service


Introduction

This topic contains information on MRS requests for assistance from Compensation Service in obtaining service records, including

Change Date

March 7, 2019

III.iii.2.I.7.a.  When to Contact the PIES Help Desk

MRSs may contact Compensation Service’s PIES Help Desk via e-mail atVAVBAWAS/CO/PIES for assistance if
  • all attempts to obtain a Veteran’s service records have been unsuccessful,and
  • there is evidence in the claims folder or an allegation by the claimant of unusual circumstances that could explain the difficulty in locating the Veteran’s records.
Examples:
  • Unsuccessful attempts to obtain the records of general or flag officers.
  • Unsuccessful attempts to obtain records because doing so would require the disclosure of classified information.
  • A records custodian confirms possession of records VA is seeking but
    • denies VA access to the records, or
    • refuses to release the records to VA.
Important:  The MRS must add the Specialized Records Review special issue indicator to a contention on the corresponding EP when contacting the Compensation Service PIES Help Desk for assistance.

III.iii.2.I.7.b.Information the PIES Help Desk Might Need From an MRS

When an MRS requests assistance from Compensation Service, the PIES Help Desk might ask him/her to furnish – preferably by e-mail – a complete history of the attempts made to obtain a Veteran’s records, to include the
  • date of each request for records
  • response(s) to each request, if any
  • names and telephone numbers of persons who have been contacted in an attempt to locate the records, and
  • results of any telephone contacts.
Note:  The MRS should also be prepared to mail or fax copies of all PIES requests/responses and VA Forms 27-0820 that document telephone contacts made in connection with the search for the Veteran’s records.  Do not send this documentation unless the PIES Help Desk specifically requests it.
Important:  The MRS must add the Specialized Records Review special issue indicator to a contention on the corresponding EP when contacting the Compensation Service PIES Help Desk for assistance.
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