Friday, January 25, 2013

Info for obtaining a file from the VA

This information is probably readily found on the web already but I don't think redundancy will hurt in this instance. I was given this information from a Facebook friend when she heard of my concerns. I am posting it here. I am not acknowledging her by name because she made clear she had privacy issues.

I plan on going to D.C. this spring specifically to look up the pension files of my ancestors that participated in the Civil War. I need to contact the V.A. for the records of Sylvester Ames before I go. I believe Sylvester married my great-grandfather's sister. There is a C in front of his file number. I was told this is because his son applied for the pension after Sylvester died. The following is the information that was given to me from Facebook. It may help those who have a similar problem.

"Info for obtaining a file from the VA for a soldier of :
The Civil War
The Spanish-American War
World War I
World War II

If you have a C# or XC# for the soldier, the file is most likely in the possession of the V.A. See this blog post for wording for a letter requesting access under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA):

I would recommend calling the VA Records Management Center with the information you have on the soldier: (Name/War/Service #/Service Unit/C or XC #) to see if they can tell you the location of the file (I didn't have the patience for a bunch of snail mail inquiries), phone: 888-533-4558.

Be prepared when you call to request that the person conduct a BIRLS (Beneficiary Identification Records Locator Subsystem) search to see at which facility the record is housed and what the transfer date of the file is. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!!
Once you have determined the location of the file you WILL then need to write a letter under the FOIA to the Department of Veteran's Affairs requesting a copy of the file. The link above recommends that you NOT include the name of the war if requesting a Civil War record. This is likely because everyone (including people who work for the VA) assumes that ALL CW records are at the National Archives. MOST are but some are not!

Be courteous but be persistent! I guarantee the results are worth it! I had to call several times before I got the information I needed but I did have a soldier with a VERY common name (William Smith). Then my first letter was lost in transit (mail) to the VA—they never received it—so be SURE to make copies of everything you send! After they received the 2nd letter, it took about a month to receive my soldier's packet."

Hopes this helps someone. It definitely helps me.


the said...

Happy Blogiversary! I have almost as many months as you have years with Geneabloggers. What a great community this is! I love family history. Have been doing it for about 35 years.

Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

This was a great post and I've included it on my Friday Favorites at Thanks for the post!