Monday, November 4, 2013

VA Service-Connection: How to Prove It? Pt. 1:

Pt. 1:  How Do I Prove I Am A Veteran?

When a member of the armed services leaves the military and then later develops a disability, what do they have to do to prove the disability was caused by their services?

There are three things that the veteran must prove in order to receive a decision that the disability is service-connected, which could entitle them to “compensation” from the VA.

1st, they have to prove that they are a veteran.  2nd they have to show that they have a disability and 3rd they have to show that the disability is most likely related to something that happened while they were in the service.

A veteran “means a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service and who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable.” 38 C.F.R. Section 3.1d.  

The person can prove that their veteran’s status by producing an official separation document.  For veterans who were discharged from service after 1950, the separation document is the DD-214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty (Report of Separation).  For those veterans discharged before 1950, there were various official forms used to show that the veteran was discharged.  Most of those documents have Separation in the title of the document.

If a veteran does not have his or her official Separation Report, he or she can order it through the National Archives website.  

The veteran can either mail or fax a request for the records, in which case you should download a form – SF-180 and mail or fax it to the National Archives, or you can apply online at the eVetrecs website. 

Most of the discharge records are stored at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri.  In 1973, the building housing the records caught on fire.  Consequently, 80% of the records of Army personnel discharged between Nov. 1, 1912 and January 1, 1960 and 75% of the records of Air force personnel discharged between September 24,1947 and January 1, 1964 were affected.  While the National Archives has been able to reconstruct many of the records, it may take a bit longer for a veteran discharged between the affected dates to receive an official record of the military discharge.

When requesting records, you should include the following information, if known:

  • The veteran's complete name used while in service
  • Service number
  • Social security number
  • Branch of service
  • Dates of service
  • Date and place of birth (especially if the service number is not known).

If you suspect your records may have been involved in the 1973 fire, also include:

  • Place of discharge
  • Last unit of assignment
  • Place of entry into the service, if known.

The DD-214 or Report of Separation will contain the following information:

  • Date and place of entry into active duty
  • Home address at time of entry
  • Date and place of release from active duty
  • Home address after separation
  • Last duty assignment and rank
  • Military job specialty
  • Military education
  • Decorations, medals, badges, citations, and campaign awards
  • Total creditable service
  • Foreign service credited
  • Separation information (type of separation, character of service, authority and reason for separation, separation and reenlistment eligibility codes)

Since the veteran or surviving spouse will need this document to apply for all veteran’s benefits, it’s a good idea to locate this important document before you need it and store it in a safe place or record it with your county recorder so you’ll be sure to find it when you need it.

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