Replacing Lost Military Medals and Decorations

The military recognizes that military medals are often a cherished part of family history and makes replacement medals, decorations, and awards available to veterans or their next of kin if the veteran is no longer living or able to make the request on his or her own behalf. Requests for replacement medals, decorations, and awards should be made to the veteran’s respective branch of service, with the exception of Army and Air Force (including Army Air Corps) veterans; requests should be sent to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis where the records will be reviewed and verified. The NPRC will then forward the requests to the respective service where the medal, decoration, or award will be issued.

Who Can Request Replacement Medals or Decorations?

how to replace military medals and decorationsThe military won’t issue replacement medals or awards to just anyone. You typically need to be the veteran or next of kin to receive a replacement medal or decoration.

Are you Next-of-Kin, or part of the general public? When it comes to military records requests, there are three categories of people who can make a request. They include the veteran, Next-of-Kin (NOK), and the general public. It is important to note that Next-of-Kin doesn’t include all familial relationships. According to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), NOK includes:

  • For the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps & Coast Guard, the NOK is defined as: the un-remarried widow or widower, son, daughter, father, mother, brother or sister.
  • For the Army, the NOK is defined as: the surviving spouse, eldest child, father or mother, eldest sibling or eldest grandchild.
  • If you do not meet the definition of NOK, you are considered a member of the general public.

How to submit a request. Replacement medals, decorations and awards should be requested on SF 180, Request Pertaining To Military Records. This form can be downloaded from http://www.va.gov/vaforms/. Each request should be filled out neatly, and should include the veteran’s branch of service, social security number, dates of service, and it should be signed by the veteran or the next of kin if the veteran is incapacitated or deceased. Supporting documentation such as discharge paperwork or the veteran’s DD Form 214 or other military records can help speed the process. Additional information on where to send the form and who is eligible to make the request can be found at the NPRC website.

How much does it cost? In general, requests made by the veteran are fulfilled at no cost. This includes requests made by family members who have the signed authorization of the veteran. There may be an associated fee for requests made by next of kin, especially if the request involves archival records (records are considered archival records 62 years after the veteran’s date of separation from military service). Members of the general public may be able to request a copy of the servicemember’s military records, but are not able to receive a medal issued by the service. However, they would be able to purchase these from commercial sources.





Photo credit: The U.S. Army.




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Date published: November 22, 2011. Last updated: November 29, 2011.

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Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of this site. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years in the USAF and also writes about money management, small business, and career topics at Cash Money Life. You can also see his profile on Google

Comments

  1. Rex Anderson says:

    Good job! I was wondering how someone would go about getting their dog tags as well.

    Regards
    Rex

    • Rex, So far as I know, the government does not reissue dog tags, but you can often order a set of dog tags from many companies which sell replacement medals and decorations. I would also caution you not to include your social security number on a set of dog tags if you buy them from a replacement vendor, because your SSN is private information and could be used for identity theft (this isn’t a warning against any specific company, but rather a statement for safeguarding your personal information).

  2. How can my son get copies of his military photos that were destroyed by a fire?

    • Dreka, I don’t know exactly which photos you are referring to. If they are part of his military record, then he should contact the National Archives to replace his military records.

      If these were personal photos, then this would not be the military’s responsibility and they would not have copies of his photos.

      Best of luck.

  3. How long does it generally take for this process to be completed and medals to be delivered?

    • Hi Joseph, I have never requested the medals, so I don’t have a firm answer. My guess is that each situation is unique and that it depends on the request, the backlog, and other factors.

  4. My father is a veteran, and I want to obtain replacements of the medals and rewards my father received while in the military.

  5. I lost my dogtags in a car crash how can i get some replacements from the VA why is it so difficult in order to get them replaced… i would gladly pay extra just to get them made by the us gov

  6. Joe P Sepulveda says:

    I am 83 years old and cannot find my dogtags. My wish is for a replacement and I do not know the procedure. Please let me know how I can get them replaced. Thank you for your assistance. Joe P Sepulveda

    • Joe, To be honest, I don’t believe the military replaces dog tags for veterans. There are several commercial companies that sell replacement dog tags. Just be sure not to send them your social security number, because that is not needed for dog tags and can be a security risk.

  7. reggie rivera says:

    Would like to know the info. That was on my wife’s dads army tags
    So I can use that info. To out on a pair of dog tags and give it to her
    For a Christmas present. It would be very touching, cause her dad meant
    Everything to her. Please email me the info. Or a phone number to reach
    You. Thank you for your help.

    • Reggie, You will need to contact the National Archives to get this information. It will be part of the national military records. The contact information for the National Archives is in this article. Best of luck!

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