Document Storage and Organization for Military Veteran Files
After leaving the military, maintaining your important documentation can be difficult. You can either decide to keep your records with you and risk personal loss through theft or disaster, or leave the records with the military or the Department of Veterans Affairs, which isn't immune to its own dangers. First, copy everything when you get the chance. After that, start planning a document storage system that keeps your records safe and ready to retrieve by understanding your options.
Leaving Documentation with the Government
The easiest option for storing your government records is to leave it with the Department of Veterans Affairs upon discharge. Your records will be sent to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri, or one of its overflow storage sites.
The NPRC location is a secure, centralized location with professional archivists and astute organizational policies. Unfortunately, as the center is a single entity that handles records for multiple organizations and programs, access time can quite long.
You'll need to verify your personal information by mail or electronically. Response time is around 10 days to send the documentation, with no average time for sending. For older records that are not electronically stored, some veterans report up to 6 months in wait time or longer before receiving their record.
If you need the information quickly for verification, it may be worth your time to copy your important duty station locations, awards, and other notable pages before sending the entire document into storage.
Personal Storage Options
Keeping the record on your own may seem like a good idea, especially if you have self-confidence in your security and organizational abilities. Unfortunately, you may be risking a lot of exposure due to circumstances that are often out of your control.
Theft, fires, natural disasters or even a common spill of coffee can completely ruin your storage. If you absolutely must keep your records on hand, visit a trusted document specialist in order to get a full copy of your records.
It isn't unheard of to have records lost or damaged by a large chain company that handles documents. They may offer compensation, but if you lose specific information that can't be easily confirmed without the military personnel involved, there won't be any compensation that can help your situation.
Once you find a document specialist that you can trust, consider having two or three copies made. You can send a copy to the NPRC, your hometown records and documents archivist, and a trustworthy relative to make sure that there's a copy that you can access. In addition to these options, a document storage firm in another physical location can make your documents less likely to be lost in a single natural disaster or area event.
Get in contact with a document storage specialist to put together an archiving plan for your military service records, medical and dental records, or any information with dire importance.