Are you looking for copies of discharge papers?  Well in this article I’ll walk you through the process for requesting them  along with some useful tips to make the process easier.

There are many reasons for want to get copies of military personnel records.  A few of the big ones are obviously to prove military service for yourself or a family member, and they’re an important tool in genealogical research.

Veterans’ service records are maintained through the national archives.  You can request service records at  When searching for discharge papers, 62 years is a very important date.  Military records are moved to the National Archives and become public 62 years after the date of the individual’s separation from the military.  For example, I’m writing this in 2012 so records with a discharge date of 1950 or older are now public records.

Records with a discharge date after 1950 are not public and must be requested from the National Archives.  In order to request records, you must either be a veteran yourself attempting to access your own records or be next of kin of a deceased former military member.  Next of kin in this case includes the following:

  • Surviving spouse that has not remarried
  • Father
  • Mother
  • Son
  • Daughter
  • Sister
  • Brother

For the archival records (before 1950 in our example) records can be requested by the general public by completing Standard for 180.  For non-archival records (post 1950 in our example) the form required is the DD Form 214.

Information required for either of the forms includes:

  • Veteran’s complete name used while in service
  • Service number
  • Social Security Number
  • Branch of service
  • Dates of service
  • Data and place of birth (most useful if service number is not known)

Some records were involved in a fire at the archives in 1973, if you suspect the record you’re looking for may be one of these then include the place of discharge, last unit of assignment and place of entry into the service, if known.

All requests must be signed and dated by one of the next-of-kin which I listed above.  And if you are next-of-kin, you must provide proof of death of the veteran.  Proof would include a published obituary, letter from funeral home, or copy of the death certificate.

The following information is not required, but is useful to help in fulfilling your request:

  • The reason for your request – examples would be applying for veterans benefits, preparations for retirement, researching family history, etc.
  • Any applicable deadlines – there is no guarantee they can meet your deadline, but it helps to prioritize requests.
  • Any other information from the Official Military Personnel File that you would like to request.

The best resource for further information is the National Archives website at  Good luck in your search for copies of discharge papers.