Over the last two months I have been involved with helping family members find discharge papers or DD-214s for a deceased Veteran. Some searches were successful, some were not.

What did that mean? In order to get VA burial benefits those documents are mandatory. For those that we couldn’t find the necessary paperwork, it meant the funeral home could not provide a casket flag. It also meant that the deceased couldn’t have active duty soldiers present at their funeral. And that was a tragedy because the Veteran served with honor. Unfortunately, the law is the law.

What can be done to avert this chaos? Veterans make sure their family members and caregivers have access to all pertinent records. My wife has a file that includes my DD-214, medical records, VA disability rating letter, medical power of attorney, will and passwords to all my accounts.

If the Veteran’s pertinent information is in a lockbox at a bank, what happens if it is the weekend? The same goes if the DD-214 is registered at the County Recorder’s office. If you have exhausted all avenues, you will need to contact the national Archives in St. Louis.

How do you do that? Go to www.va.gov and at the bottom of the homepage is a Quick List. Scroll down to VA forms. Click on that link, when the forms page comes up under “search” type in SF-180. The form is the Request Pertaining To Military Records. It is a 3-page form which asks for basic information. On their homepage they state that it will take at least 10 days to process the form. As you can tell, that is not the answer for immediate access to the Veteran’s records

I realize this is not my usual scintillating column, but ladies and gentlemen, no one gets out alive. It both frustrates and hurts me personally when we know the Veteran did serve, but we can’t prove it. They deserve the honor and respect of the nation for their service.

Veterans, you can make it easier on your family in their time of grief if you make sure you give them information. Family members you can make it easier by asking; better yet, nagging your Veteran to give you that information.