There are certain personal records you must have to rent a place to live, apply for employment, open a bank account, or request assistance from government agencies and community-based organizations. The following are personal records you will need:
- Birth Certificate – You will need to contact the appropriate state government office in your state of birth. The Center for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics website provides addresses and information about obtaining birth certificates. There is often a cost associated with ordering a copy of a birth certificate. Check with your local drop-in center or other local programs to see if they provide assistance with obtaining birth certificates.
- Photo ID – Contact the Homeless Veteran Program Coordinator at your nearest VA medical center for information on how to obtain a VA photo ID; call 1-877-222-8387 to find the medical center nearest you. Each state’s Department of Motor Vehicles provides photo ID services for a fee. Check the phone book blue pages for your local number.
- Social Security Card – Apply at the nearest Social Security Office (check the phone book blue pages under “U.S. Government, Social Security Administration,” or call 1-800-772-1213). Because of tightened security at some federal buildings, you should check with your local office to see if there are special application procedures to follow. You may also apply for a replacement card online.
- DD 214 – Homeless veterans are entitled to one copy of their service and medical records free of charge. Send requests to the National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records, 9700 Page Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63132-5100. Homeless veterans may fax a request for records to 314-801-9195 through their DVOP/LVER or case manager. Be sure to write “Homeless veteran case” clearly on the form. To contact the National Personnel Records Center, please call 314-801-0800.
The National Archives and Records Administration stores military personnel files. To submit a request, click here.
State Offices of Veterans Affairs often have military records of veterans who are state residents. For your state’s contact information, click here.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) publishes a booklet called “Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors” that describes available benefits and lists addresses and phone numbers for VA facilities nationwide. Write to your VA regional office for a copy. Call 1-800-827-1000 or click here for more information about benefits and addresses for regional offices.
Eligibility for VA Benefits
Your ability to get most VA benefits depends on your type of military discharge. In general, you are eligible for services if you were discharged under honorable conditions (this includes general discharges). Disability Compensation is money paid to veterans who were injured or who have a disease that started or became worse during active duty. VA Disability Pension is money that may be available to low-income veterans who are permanently and totally disabled – not as a result of military service – and have 90 or more days of active military service, at least one day of which was during a period of war.
Homeless veterans’ benefit claims should be directed to the Homeless Veteran Program Coordinator at the nearest Regional VA Benefits Office for expedited processing. Be sure to clearly mark “Homeless Veteran” on all applications and required forms.
Help Seeking Benefits
If you would like to get benefits or think you have a pending claim before the VA, it is best to get professional help.
- Check the phone book blue pages for a County Veteran Service Officer’s number, or call your county government information line to see if there is one in your area.
- Many veterans service organizations (VSOs) have trained staff who can help you with your VA claim and can legally represent you before the VA. Some also help homeless and at-risk veterans find the support services they need. You can contact any VSO listed below to see if there is a service representative near you.
The American Legion
700 North Pennsylvania St.
Indianapolis, IN 46206
4647 Forbes Blvd.
Lanham, MD 20706
Blinded Veterans Association
477 H St., NW
Washington, DC 20001
Disabled American Veterans
3725 Alexandria Pike
Cold Spring, KY 41076
Jewish War Veterans
1811 R St., NW
Washington, DC 20009
Military Order of the Purple Heart
5413-A, B & C Backlick Rd.
Springfield, VA 22151
Non Commissioned Officers Association
9330 Corporate Dr., Ste. 701
Selma, TX 78154
Paralyzed Veterans of America
801 18th St., NW
Washington, DC 20006
Veterans of Foreign Wars
406 W. 34th St.
Kansas City, MO 64111
Vietnam Veterans of America
8605 Cameron St., Ste. 400
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Seeking Benefits on Your Own
Although we encourage you to seek the aid of a service representative, you may choose to apply for VA benefits on your own. Write the VA regional office (VARO) in your state, or apply for disability, pension, education, vocational rehabilitation and employment benefits online here.
Below are brief descriptions of forms that you will need to file for certain VA benefits. Be sure to use a return address where mail will get to you as quickly as possible. Make photocopies of all forms for your records before sending your packet to the nearest VARO.
- Military and Medical Records
You will need your military discharge document (DD 214) when applying for any benefits. Standard Form 180 (SF-180) is used to get copies of your military and medical records. Veterans may also complete a request here.
- Application for Compensation and/or Pension
VA Form 21-526 must be filed to apply for compensation or pension. This form, along with your DD 214 and the following forms, should be mailed directly to your nearest VARO.
- Statement in Support of Claim
VA Form 21-4138 lets you explain why you deserve the benefits you are requesting. It is best to have an experienced service representative help you complete the form.
- Authorization for Release of Information
If you have received medical or mental health care from anyone other than a VA Medical Center and feel it may be relevant to your claim, you need to fill out VA Form 21-4142, which allows your medical records to be released to VA.
- Enrollment for Medical Benefits
VA Form 10-10EZ is used by the VA to determine if you can receive medical benefits. Complete the form and bring it with you to the VA medical facility where you will seek evaluation for treatment.
- Vocational Rehabilitation for Disabled Veterans
VA Form 28-1900 is needed to apply for the vocational rehabilitation program, which helps veterans who were disabled during service reach maximum independence in daily living, learn the skills needed to get a job, and find and maintain employment. Send Form 28-1900 to your nearest VARO.
- Request for and Consent to Release Information from Claimant’s Records
VA Form VA-3288 is used to get records relevant to your claim from VA facilities (regional offices, medical centers, outpatient clinics and Vet Centers). Request a fee waiver under title 38 CFR Sec. 1.526 (i)(2), which requires the VARO to provide a veteran with one set of his or her records free of charge.
Important Numbers for Veterans
800-273-8255 Suicide Hotline
844-228-2962 Eating Disorder Hotline
877-455-0628 Self Harm Hotline
888-640-5174 Depression Hotline
800-273-8255 Crisis Help for Veterans PRESS 1 or text 838255
877-717-7873 Peer to Peer assistance for Veterans with PTSD
800-827-1000 VA Benefits
888-442-4551 Education (GI Bill)
855-574-7286 VETS.GOV Help Desk
855-829-6636 Women Veterans Hotline