Proving VA Disability Without Service Treatment Records

Proving VA Disability Without Service Treatment Records

You probably know that in order to qualify for VA disability benefits, you have to prove that your current disability is connected to an event, injury, illness, or condition that developed or worsened during your military service. For many veterans, service treatment records from their time in the military will be key to establishing what caused the disability. The VA even has a responsibility to assist in obtaining those and other service-related records relevant to a veteran’s VA disability claim. 

But, those service treatment records aren’t always available. 

Some Military Service Treatment Records Have Been Lost or Destroyed

You might expect that your military service record is forever. However, it’s not uncommon for veterans applying for VA disability benefits to find that some or all of their records are missing.

Sometimes, those records have simply been lost or misplaced. In other cases, those records were destroyed in a documented event. The most significant event occurred in 1973, affecting a very small percentage of veterans pursuing benefits today. In that incident, a fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) resulted in the destruction of about 80% of records for U.S. Army service members discharged between November 1, 1912, to January 1, 1960, as well as about 75% of records for U.S. Air Force service members discharged between September 25, 1947 to January 1, 1964. 

What to Do if Your Records Were Lost or Destroyed

When military service treatment records or in-service medical records are not available to fully support your claim, you’ll need to assemble other forms of proof. This may require a more piecemeal approach that can take more time and effort, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. 

Some types of evidence you may rely on to establish a claim without military records include: 

  • Non-military medical records from before and after military service–these records can establish that you suffer from the condition you claim and show the progression of an illness or condition. Your before-and-after medical records may also establish that you did not suffer from the medical condition when you entered the service and did when you returned.
  • Lay witness statements from friends, family, and those who served with you. This type of evidence may be used to establish your military service, the timeline of your disability, and perhaps even the incident that caused your injury.
  • Photographs, letters, and other evidence that helps to establish the period of military service and perhaps the event that led to the disability and onset of symptoms. 

Establishing your VA disability claim without service records can be more challenging, so it’s a good idea to get help from the outset. The experienced disability benefits advocates at Veterans Help Group know what types of evidence can help you establish a claim without service records, and how to obtain that evidence. To learn more about how we can help, call 855-855-8992 right now, or fill out our contact form here.

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