A VA compensation claim will only be successful if the evidence supporting it is strong. The objective and the goal for any Veteran is understanding how to obtain records that may not be immediately identifiable or available. Certainly under the previous regulatory scheme for PTSD claims the entire success of the claim was dependent upon finding evidence supporting past stressors in the absence of combat medals and such. The new regulations lessened this requirement but still many claims will rely upon savvy record compilation strategies on the Veteran’s part. Of course many may perhaps naively believe that since the VA has the duty to assist the Veteran that it is unnecessary to search for records. However true this may be the reality is that the VA benefits staff is overburdened, backlogged, and simply unable to dedicate the time needed to find the records needed to support one’s claim. The following are some of the types of records that may be available and provide useful information for a Veteran’s particular claim: Unit/Transportation Histories, Operational Reports, Air Force Base Attacks, Command Chronologies, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam reports, and National Guard and Reserve Unit records.
For claims related to PTSD or Agent Orange consultation and records requests may be directed to the Joint Services Records Research Center. JSRRC serves as Secretary of Army’s administrative agent for direct support of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Service Organizations, and individual Veterans to accomplish this mission. They research all available Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard unit records, but not the Marine Corps. However, this agency is seriously limited in terms of what they can do since they will not specifically verify that a specific event occurred, obtain statements from commanders or friends about an incident, or research records related to a stressor during Marine Corp service. There is also the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO, but again this option has serious limitations. Many Veterans may find that their records are unavailable due to a fire at the Center in 1973. So there are options, some have serious problems, and although the VA has a role here in terms of finding records the Veteran still ultimately has the difficult burden in certain claims to find the records that they need to prove their compensation claim.