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DECORATION PROCESSES FOR VETERANS AND RETIREES



PURPOSE

      In trying to understand the decorations process for veterans and retirees, one must realize there are three different processes depending on whether or not individuals had ever received their decorations. The 50th Anniversary of WWII brought to light many WWII veterans who felt that the service they performed was deserving of an award, or in seeing their fellow airmen at reunions realize that some received awards while others hadn't. Subsequently, we must approach this from three different angles: Replacement Decorations, Lost/Overlooked Recommendations for Awards and Decorations, and First Time Requests for Decoration Consideration Under the 1996 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Section 526

DISCUSSION

  • Replacement Decorations for former Army Air Corps, Army Air Force, and Air Force Personnel
    • U.S. Code, Title 10, states: "The Secretary of the Unites States Air Force shall procure, and issue without charge to any person entitled thereto, any service medal authorized for members of the Air Force after September 26, 1947 and any ribbon, clasp, star, or similar device prescribed as part of that medal"
      • Therefore, anyone needing replacement medals and ribbons, or accouterments, for whatever reason, can have them replaced for free by writing to the National Personnel Records Center, 9700 Page Blvd., St. Louis, Missouri 63132-5100. A one-time replacement is authorized
    • It is important to note that in 1973 there was a fire at NPRC and a large majority of the WWII records were destroyed. Many have been reconstructed by cross referencing orders and troop records, but often the information replaced does not reveal what decorations/awards they had been entitled to.

    • NPRC receives the veteran's request and reviews existing records for obvious award entitlements, (i.e. DD Fm 214, WD AGO Form 53-55, etc.). NPRC notifies HQ AFPC/DPPPRA (via NA Form 13059) who is the replacement center for all decorations requests received by former Army Air Corps, Army Air Force, and United States Air Force personnel, and HQ AFPC/DPPPRA forwards the replacement awards and decorations to the member

    • It is important to note the Air Force is the only branch of the service that does not have an office at NPRC handling these cases. DPPPRA often receives hundreds of requests from NPRC in a given day. Over 2,000 requests are filed on a monthly basis. Since no other information is attached to these requests, it is assumed these are replacement decorations that have been verified by NPRC. It is imperative that requests submitted at all levels, are legible, and include complete addresses and other pertinent information to fill the requests

    • Often, NPRC can not readily determine a veteran's entitlement to awards. In that instance, the veteran's whole record is forwarded from NPRC to DPPPRA

      • DPPPRA reviews each individual record for any reference to decorations or awards to include cross referencing for unit awards. This process is lengthy, often requiring several hours to properly review a single record

      • DPPPRA forwards a personal letter along with the veteran's awards and decorations upon verification and sends their personnel records to DPPRR (Separations and Retirements Branch) for correction to member's DD Form 214 if necessary

    • Occasionally, DPPPRA cannot verify entitlement due to the records being burned or lost, or in fact a member was never recommended, and they must request information from the member's own personal records. Using this new information, they then verify the member's entitlement, and forward the awards and decorations, if appropriate

    • It is important to note: DPPPRA receives thousands of records to review each year, and, over 80 percent of those records and requests from NPRC concern WWII veterans

  • Lost/Overlooked Recommendations for Awards and Decorations

    • The 50th Anniversary of WWII brought to light many heroic events for which numerous Army Air Corps and Army Air Force service members were never properly recognized. However, in 1952, President Truman established 3 May 51 as the official cut-off for submissions of decorations for WWII. The war was over, and anyone not previously recognized, would not be

      • Notwithstanding, on occasion someone runs across an old box of papers and finds their original recommendation for an award which was never processed. They forward that information to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis and NPRC pulls the service members personnel records from inventory and forwards to HQ AFPC/DPPPRA. It is then forwarded to the Secretary of the Air Force Personnel Council (SAFPC) under the "Lost Recommendation" rule. The Personnel Council then makes a decision, i.e., approve, downgrade, or disapprove and the member is notified of the results by HQ AFPC/DPPPRA

      • Also, on occasion, someone writes the NPRC with documentation to support their entitlement to various awards and decorations which were never presented. When we are made aware of this situation, HQ AFPC/DPPPRA makes arrangements for his decorations to be presented

      • And still, every now and then, an event, which was previously classified, or not for public information, is released and requests for decorations are made, regardless of the time expired. These too, are reviewed by the SAFPC for a decision

      • Regardless of the situation at hand under the above two scenarios, veterans/retirees first course of action should be to write to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), 9700 Page Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri 63132-5100. This will ensure the quickest response to an inquiry for issuance of replacement awards and decorations or Lost/Overlooked awards and decorations

  • First Time Requests for Consideration of Decorations Under the 1996 NDAA, Section 526

    • Under the 96 NDAA, Section 526, which lifted time limitations on submitting recommendations for decorations (3 May 51 for submittal of WWII decorations or two years from the date of the act or achievement since that time period) on former Army Air Corps, Army Air Force, and United States Air Force personnel, service members who may make a case for decoration consideration not previously eligible because of these time limits, may now submit for award consideration. However, the written recommendation must meet two criteria

      • Be made by someone other than the member him or herself, in the member's chain of command at the time of the incident, and who has firsthand knowledge of the acts or achievements, and

      • Be submitted through a congressional member who can ask a military service to review a proposal for a decoration based on the merits of the proposal and the award criteria in existence when the event occurred

    • In order for requests to be reasonably considered under the provisions of the 96 NDAA by the military service involved, it is important that the recommendation be accompanied by eyewitness statements attesting to the act(s), sworn affidavits, certificates, and any other related documentation

      • As a general rule, corroborating evidence is best provided by former commanders or supervisors, who had personal knowledge of the circumstances and events relative to the recommendation

SUMMARY

      Decoration replacement and consideration for decorations is big business. Most people don't realize the volume of personal letters from veterans, second requests, NA 13059s, and records we receive in a given month. Unfortunately, due to this, when requests are received, and NPRC can verify their entitlement, the assumption is that they had previously been awarded these decorations sometime in the past 50 years, and they now need a replacement set. Of the thousands of requests we receive, 95 percent or more fit this category. For the other 5 percent, other action is required to ensure the former member was properly recognized. We are very sensitive to the desires of veterans to receive the recognition they deserve. Unfortunately, volume, the NPRC fire, and the length of time since the accomplishments, makes it difficult to satisfy all requests.


U.S. Military

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