Unfortunately, the VA’s system for organizing medical records is not foolproof. Each year, hundreds of Veterans applying for disability are told their service-related medical records can’t be located, and their applications are stuck in limbo. Some of these records were lost during a VA warehouse fire in St. Louis in 1973, but others are missing due to simple clerical errors.
It feels like you’ve been on the phone constantly since you finished your disability application. Although the VA is supposed to be helping you get your benefits approved, they can’t seem to locate the medical records you need to complete your claim—and until they do, your application is stuck in limbo. What can you do? How can you get the disability benefits you need if some of your medical records are missing?
How to File for VA Disability If Your Medical Records Are Missing
If someone has told you that your files cannot be located, you should not simply give up on your attempts to find them. There are many instances where veterans have pursued their records requests diligently, and the records were eventually discovered. Here are a few additional things you can do to help a medical institution find your missing records:
Be Persistent. Many veterans have received letters from the VA stating that their medical records cannot be found. However, the VA has a duty to continue to request medical documents needed for claims every two months, so don’t give up hope if the missing records aren’t found on the first attempt.
Provide Details. If you are trying to locate information in a service medical record, you should provide as many details as possible to help the VA in its search. Dates, locations, the name of your commanding officer, which unit you served in, as well as the names of people you served with can all be invaluable when tracking down lost records.
Search For Tricare Records. Sometimes records that can’t be found elsewhere can be located within the tricare system. For more information see www.tricareonline.com.
Using Alternate Evidence If Your Medical Records Have Been Lost
If several attempts to find the missing medical evidence have failed, you can still win your VA disability case if you can find other evidence of the accident or treatment. The evidence in your file may show a sudden drop off in health or a leave from duty that can support your assertion that an event occurred. Personal evidence, such as a journal, photos, e-mails, or letters to your family can be used as proof as well. Lastly, you can ask someone who was present at the time of your injury (usually someone in your unit) to write a letter describing the incident.