Veterans and "Next of Kin": Veterans and next-of-kin of deceased veterans have the same rights to full access to the record. Next-of-kin are the unremarried widow or widower, son or daughter, father or mother, brother or sister of the deceased veteran.
Autorized Representatives: Authorized third party requesters, e.g., lawyers, doctors, historians, etc., may submit requests for information from individual records with the veteran's (or next of kin's, for deceased veterans) signed and dated authorization. If you use a signed authorization, it should include exactly what you are authorizing to be released to the third party. Authorizations are valid one year from date of signature.
General Public: The general public can also request some parts of a veteran's military record without the authorization of the veteran or next of kin. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Privacy Act provide balance between the right of the public to obtain information from military service records, and the right of the former military service member to protect his/her privacy. In general, information available from military service records which can be released without violation of the Privacy Act are: Name, Service Number (not Social Security Number), Rank, Dates of Service, Awards and Decorations, and Place of Entrance and Separation. If the veteran is deceased, the Place of Birth, Date of Death, Geographical Location of Death, and Place of Burial can also be released.
Court Order: Access to military personnel and medical records on file at the National Personnel Records Center, may also be gained pursuant "to the order of a court of competent jurisdiction." Subpoenas qualify as orders of a court of competent jurisdiction only if they have been signed by a judge. To be valid, court orders must also be signed by a judge. Authority for these requirements is 5 U.S.C. 552a(b) (11), as interpreted by Doe vs. DiGenova, 779 F. 2d 74 (D.C. Cir. 1985), and Stiles vs. Atlanta Gas and Light Company, 453 F. Supp. 798 (N.D. Ga.1978).
The records stored at the National Personnel Records Center cover military personnel who were discharged on or after the below-listed dates:
Air Force Officers and Enlisted -- September 25, 1947
Army Officers separated July 1, 1917
Army Enlisted separated November 1, 1912
Navy Officers separated January 1, 1903
Navy Enlisted separated January 1, 1886
Marine Corps Officers and Enlisted separated January 1, 1905
Coast Guard Officers and Enlisted separated January 1, 1898
Military personnel records for individuals separated before these dates are on file at the National Archives and Records Administration, Old Military and Civil Records Branch (NWCTB), Washington, DC 20408. E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Federal law (5 USC 552a(b)) requires that all requests for records and information be submitted in writing. The easiest way to do this is by using Standard Form (SF) 180, Request Pertaining to Military Records.
Requesting Copies of Military Records (Including DD Form 214/215)
Requests must contain enough information to identify the record among the more than 70 million on file at the National Personnel Records Center. The Center needs certain basic information in order to locate military service records. This information includes the veteran's complete name used while in service, service number or social security number, branch of service, and dates of service. Date and place of birth may also be helpful, especially if the service number is not known. If the request pertains to a record that may have been involved in the 1973 fire, also include place of discharge, last unit of assignment, and place of entry into the service, if known.