Fire Destroyed Records – – What to do?

An issue that comes up, unfortunately way too frequently, is a veteran’s records were destroyed in 1973 at the St. Louis fire at the National Personnel Records Center. For information on how to contact the National Personnel Records Center see my link under my Helpful Resources and National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis at the bottom of this page

VA Regional Offices often deny a claim based upon “They (VA) could not obtain the records, and they were destroyed in a Fire at the NPRC.” Then the next 7 states that it is the veteran’s responsibility to obtain the records. One of the requirements to obtain a VA disability rating is to provide evidence that a disease, injury, or event occurred in service creating a disability that continues to this day.

If you are in such a situation, where the VA has denied your claim based upon they are unable to obtain the records and have told you it is now your responsibility, do not give up.

First, see if the VA can reconstruct the information from alternative military,civilian, or personal sources.

Second, case law establishes that the VA and Board of Veterans Appeals has a heightened duty under the benefit of the doubt rule to assist you and explain any decisions they make regarding your claim.

However, instead of counting on the VA to reconstruct your records there are some things that you can do:
– A possible avenue for the veteran is to look at what additional evidence that they may have available.
– Are there any service members with first-hand knowledge of the disease, injury, or event that caused the present disability in service? Can they write a statement explaining how the disability was created in service?

– Are there any newspaper articles, personal letters written home during the war, personal medical records in your possession, unit histories, awards and declarations you received, or other information regarding the totality of your military service that can prove the same claim without the specific medical event(s), which caused your disability?

For instance, if you’re trying to prove a service connection for tinnitus and hearing loss, and you believe that it occurred on a firing range and you were sent to the infirmary, but those medical records were destroyed.

Instead of trying to find the hospitalization records for the firing range incident, prove you were in the infantry, a security policeman, or were involved in combat operations. Therefore you were exposed to loud noises as part of your military duty, which in turn caused the disabilities of Tinnitus and hearing loss.

If you need additional help, contact our legal team at

Contact Information