Anyone wishing to obtain proof of military service must complete and submit the required forms available through the U.S. National Archives at Archives.gov. Forms may be submitted via mail or through fax. Discharge papers, personnel files and medical records are all available for request. Military personnel files are commonly used for providing proof of service.
Certain portions of the military record system are available to the general public. Any citizen may request a limited copy of a service record for a veteran discharged 62 years before the request date. A veteran or a veteran's next of kin may request a full record.
Records meeting the 62-year requirement are considered archival and subject to fees determined by the length of the file. The records of notable military veterans, such as war heroes and former presidents, are available via a per-page payment system. Non-archival records are typically free to request, as of 2016.
Some personnel records may not be available. In 1973, the National Archives suffered severe damage from an extensive fire. The blaze destroyed roughly 80 percent of all U.S. Army records from 1912 to 1960. The Air Force lost records from three-quarters of its records from 1947 to 1964. No other copies of these files are known to exist.