How to Find Out If Someone Has Served in the U.S. Military

by Tom Streissguth

The federal government keeps a fairly tight hold on military service records. It takes 62 years after a military discharge before a vet's service records join the National Archives and become available to the general public. Until that time, a military record is released only on a "need-to-know" basis, unless you're the vet in question or a member of the vet's immediate family. If you're an employer seeking to verify an applicant's service, standard operating procedure is to request the official documents from the applicant.

Request Payment Records

The easiest way for an applicant to prove recent or current military service is to provide a Leave and Earnings Statement. This is the military version of a pay stub and is issued monthly. It gives information on pay grade, accumulated leave, earnings and tax withholding. The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines all have their own versions of this statement, but all branches instruct their members to keep the LES with their records, and in a safe place. Alternately, the Defense Financing and Account Service allows all military to access their pay statement online through myPay which, as of April, 2015, was available only to Internet Explorer 8.0 or later browsers.

Check the Card

A faster method, although not as secure, is to request the applicant's Common Access Card, which serves as a standard ID document for active-duty military. These smart cards carry a color photograph, the bearer's full name, and service branch. Examine the CAC carefully, however--they also are issued to contractors and civilians who work for the military.

Verify Via the Web

If you need to verify military service for an online application, another option is the ID.me site. This system is widely used by vets seeking out special programs and offers, and who need to rapidly confirm they've been active-duty military. They set up a "Troop ID" account with proof of their status; the site then provides the credentials to anyone who makes an inquiry. ID.me is also used by students, teachers and first responders.

Veterans can also request their own military records online through the eVetRecs system. The online request form goes through four steps, in which a military veteran provides personal information to verify his identity and select the documents he's requesting, which can include medical records, the separation document (DD-214) and his Official Military Personnel File. The form must be signed and dated, and then faxed or mailed to the National Personnel Record Center, a division of the National Archives.

Items you will need

  • Service member's name
  • Service member's branch of service
  • Form SF 180 from the National Archives

About the Author

Founder/president of the innovative reference publisher The Archive LLC, Tom Streissguth has been a self-employed business owner, independent bookseller and freelance author in the school/library market. Holding a bachelor's degree from Yale, Streissguth has published more than 100 works of history, biography, current affairs and geography for young readers.