Veterans Personnel Records at the National Archives, St. Louis

Uploaded by usnationalarchives on 10.10.2011

A lot of people think there’s one data base that the government maintains that contains
information on everyone and all is you need to do is key in one Social Security number
and you’ll find out all there is to know about somebody. That’s not at all how it
works. My name is Scott Levins. I’m the director of the National Personnel Records
Center in St. Louis, which is an office of the National Archives. The records that we
hold date back to the Spanish-American War through about the year 2000, depending on
the branch of service involved. We have 56 million official military personnel folders.
Our responsibility is to preserve these personnel records. But also to make them available to
veterans and other interested people who need them today. I’m Bruce Bronsema. I was in
the Air Force for 24 years. Here at the National Archives in St. Louis, I work in the military
records section. It’s a really simple process to get your records. Come to the Archives
website and that’s Click on the link and find the item that says “Request
records online with e-Vet Recs.” We receive four to five thousand requests every day.
They might come from veterans, their next of kin, potential employers, members of Congress,
national cemeteries. Now we’re ready to fill out our service information. First they’ll
ask who you are, veteran or next of kin. I was in the Air Force, so I selected Air Force.
And I was active duty, so I’m going to select active. I’m requesting an undeleted report
of separation, DD Form 214. I’m also going to include in the comments section a request
for my DD form 215. Sometimes we may have difficulty trying to find your records, so
it’s very important to include other contact information such as your telephone number
or e-mail address. And in a few moments a signature page will
appear. You must print this page out and either fax it or mail it to us to verify that you
are the person requesting your records. Without the signature page, signed, we cannot complete
your request. It’s that simple. I get the request. I locate it on the computer. And
there’s Bruce Bronsema’s record. And I print out a sheet. And then from there I hand
it over to a search clerk who then takes care of it by going out to pull the record. People
often ask why we don’t just digitize all the paper instead of having to build large
buildings to store the records. And the reason is it would take thousands of staff years
of labor to even prepare the records to be filmed or to be digitized. I am a searcher.
I handle 240 records a day in an eight-hour day. Constantly moving, going up and down
the ladder. It keeps you busy. Bruce Bronsema asked for a copy of his DD Form 214 and a
copy of his DD Form 215. The first thing I do is I check to make sure I have the correct
veteran. Each case is assigned a unique bar code, from the moment the case is created.
The bar code gets scanned at each step. That bar code allows us to trace the record and
the request until it is out of the door. There are often times when I have to call a veteran.
I might not have a signature, or I might need additional information to locate what they’re
requesting of me. I want to make sure that I send out the best copies that we can provide.
We seal each document before they are sent out. I want the veteran to know who I am and
if they have any problems or concerns they can call up and they can reach me. I include
all the documents that are needed. Put them in an envelope, make sure I put my bar code
and my label on the envelope and I’ve completed my case. Almost half of the reference requests
that we receive are from veterans who are looking for a DD Form 214 to pursue an entitlement.
Ninety percent of those cases are done in ten business days or less and most of them
are done in about six days.