Step One Of Every Appeal - Gather The Evidence
After you receive your Notice of Decision and have filed your Notice of Disagreement (see our FAQ), the first step of every appeal is to gather all the evidence. The steps below are how we request every veterans' records.
First, we recommend you fill out our questionnaire which will put all the information necessary to complete your request forms in one place.
VA Claims File
This is your "C-File," which is what the VA used when deciding your claim. You can schedule an appointment through the VA's hotline at (800) 827-1000 to view your C-File at the local Regional Office. If you don't get any traction there, or if the C-File they produce is wrong or incomplete, you can file a FOIA request for the record. Complete this letter template to prepare a Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") request for your file.
Do NOT request your records using the government's VA Form VA-3288. Unlike FOIA, there are no "teeth" in that form and you have no recourse if the government does not fulfill your request.
The FOIA places strict timelines on the government to comply and gives you the right to sue the government if it fails to meet its deadlines. If you get a response that VA has decided to process your request pursuant to the Privacy Act (which, conveniently for the government, does not have a timeline for the response), that is a denial of your FOIA request and you can appeal that denial. The government is required to process all requests for information under both statutes. They don't get to choose between FOIA and the Privacy Act.
VA C&P Exam Record
You should separately request a copy of all records related to the Compensation & Pension Exam you received. Complete this letter template to prepare a FOIA request for this information. You will need this information to challenge the competency of the doctor who examined you. If you do not challenge their competency during your appeal you risk losing that challenge and the doctor is presumed to have been competent.
Veterans or their next of kin may use the Standard Form 180 (SF-180) to request the Department of Defense Form 214 ("DD214"), Official Military Personnel File ("OMPF" or "service jacket"), and some military medical records. Requests can by made by mail or online. In order to complete an online request, the signature page must be faxed or mailed to the National Archives. More information on both methods to request records is available online from the National Archives.
VA Treatment Records
If you're registered in the VA's Myhealthevet website, you can request records related to your treatment at the VA online. Or you can fill out and submit this form for a copy of your VA treatment records.
In-Service Treatment Records
Your request for your OMPF, via the SF-180 form, should obtain any records for outpatient treatment received while in the service. If you received inpatient treatment (i.e. were admitted to the hospital), you need to submit this form to:
National Personnel Records Center
Attn: Military Personnel Records
1 Archives Dr.
St. Louis, MO 63138-1002
Other Medical Records
You may have seen a doctor outside the government for treatment related to your disability. If you have not already, you should contact that facility and request any records related to your visits there as they can help support your disability claim.
As always, if you run into any issues gathering your records or have any questions about how to go about appealing the denial, you can call or text us at (504) 218-2510 or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.