What every present day Veteran Should Know
Most of the veterans around today are of the Korean war, Vietnam war and Gulf war. In the past 10 to 11 years, Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Those of past wars and those who served in peace time need to explain to their sons, daughters, grand kids and maybe for some great grand kids, who may be serving their Country. How important it is to maintain records.
Upon discharge from any branch of the Armed Forces, the service member receives a DD-214, release of service discharge. A very important document. Sometimes on that discharge document it might state medals earned and duty stations served at. It is not always the case. Often times the person typing up the DD-214 does not go through the members service record to record medals and duty stations.
Upon discharge from any branch of service along with receiving a DD-214, they should ask for copies of their medical records, record of medals earned and duty stations and or commands served under. Also they should keep copies of all transfer orders and travel orders. These are important documents.
You may ask why keep those documents? It can be very likely they may be needed at some point in time years after discharge from military service.
An old injury creeps up on you that might be service connected or an illness that could be service connected. So you submit a VA claim. The VA asks for evidence of your service that may have caused an injury or illness. They will want to know what medals you earned, especially combat medals. They will want you to prove what duty stations and or commands you were attached to. Injury’s that may be service connect you have to prove with your medical records as well as medical records from a health care provider. Illness’s that may be service connected and prove where you were that could attest to a location.
If you don’t have these records or did have them and threw them away or misplaced them, good luck. It is a nightmare to get those records of service, that holds true to all branches of service. I could take mountains of paperwork on your part to find what you need as evidence for a VA claim. It could take several months even a year or more to find the documents needed. Any documents relative to the above should be kept in a safe place. A family member, wife, child, father, mother, etc. should now where you keep those documents for any event. By having these documents, it will be so much easier to submit a VA claim if and when needed for disability. The VA will not search for these documents for you, you are on your own to present them.
I am a Vietnam war veteran and I had saved all of my service documents over my 22 years of service. When I came down with Agent Orange exposure, those documents I saved were like gold. I had every thing the VA asked for and then some. It only took me a year to be rated disabled. On the other hand, if I did not have those documents, it conceivably could have taken several years to be rated disabled, that is if I were able to find what was needed by the VA.
Another important thing a veteran upon discharge should do is register with the VA to be in the system. This can be done by a phone call or on-line to get a form of registration and sending it in with a copy of your DD-214. Also all documents you collect must show your SS#, just write it on the top of each page. There is the possibility you may one day need to submit a VA claim. Safe guard your service documents, they may one day be important to you. Don’t cause yourself a nightmare later in life when you find you need help.
This advice is given by: © John J. Bury, US Navy, retired, Vietnam War veteran
Author for COVVHA