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AFPC begins Total Force Health Treatment Records transfer mission to VA

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Air Force officials announced the implementation of a new Total Force mission for the Air Force Personnel Center here, set to come on line Feb. 1.

AFPC will become the central transfer gateway to improve the flow of Air Force health treatment records of retired and separated Airmen - active, Guard and Reserve, to the Department of Veterans Affairs, aiding in the timely handling of any disability claims. The Center's effort will apply to the records of Airmen who retired or separated on Jan. 1 or later.

In 2007, the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense directed all branches of service to transfer health treatment records of retiring and separating military personnel to the VA from a "centralized personnel out-processing location." The nature of AFPC made it the Air Force solution.

"The Personnel community has the experience in records management required to meet the OSD directive," said Sharon Hogue, AFPC Master Personnel Records Branch chief. "The Records Branch already had the infrastructure in place for the accountability and maintenance of centralizing Air Force personnel records; we offered to help the medical community streamline this process."

Last October, AFPC started testing this new process as the transfer point for Air Force health treatment records sent to the VA using Randolph, Lackland and Laughlin Air Force Bases as test bases.

The Center collected the records from the base medical treatment facilities, performed an accountability audit, verified all components were included and researched those that were missing. It then transferred the records to the servicing VA location of retired and separated Airmen who left the Air Force between Sept. 1 and Nov. 1, 2008.

The field test allowed AFPC to evaluate the transfer process and see if it could accommodate the additional workload that would be generated by taking on the Total Force mission.

"The AFPC Centralized Processing Center took in the records and processed them according to the new directive. Based on the findings of the field test, AFPC decided to bring on the entire Air Force at one time, rather than in stages," Ms. Hogue said, "resulting in one-stop processing and streamlining the Air Force method."

Airmen do not have to wait until separation or retirement to file a disability claim with the VA. They can file up to six months in advance, providing they can be available for any requested VA medical appointments. In these cases, Airmen can request a copy of their records from their servicing MTF to provide to the VA.

Following the new guidelines, the Airman's MTF holds the original record until 30 days after separation or retirement to ensure all documentation from medical or dental appointments and procedures toward the end of an Airman's service is captured, and then sends the record to the AFPC Centralized Processing Center.

"We are confident we will provide a valuable accountability service to our Total Force Airmen and to the VA with this new mission," Ms. Hogue said. "When records of retired and separated Airmen are transferred and tracked by the Air Force Personnel Center, we will make sure they get to the correct VA location in a timely manner."