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It sounds like the person you were searching for was given treatment at a VA hospital, which is why it's likely the VA holds his pension file. Here's the info I was able to track down for you:
There are some Civil War pensions now held in St. Louis - if we don't have the record here in DC, we tell researchers to try St. Louis and then the VA. But definitely try St. Louis first, because it's not a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. I don't know if they'll accept email requests, but here's the mailing address:
National Archives at St. Louis
St. Louis, MO 63138
For FOIA requests to the VA - you do have to write to the FOIA office. Here's the address:
Freedom of Information Act Request
Department of Veterans Affairs
Director, Records Management Service (005E3)
810 Vermont Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20420
It may be helpful to email email@example.com to find out if you can request a Civil War pension from St. Louis by email, if that's more convenient for you. They'll be able to route it to the correct group.
Colleague Michael Pierce had this additional information:
I had the same situation a few years ago, with a friend who's Federal ancestor died at the VA Hospital at Jefferson Barracks. We used the VA case number microfilm here in St. Louis and then wrote to the VA office here. Turned out his record was still at the hospital! A few weeks later we got a copy, which led us in additional directions.
I hope this helps, and please keep us posted of your progress!
Thank you for the information, Kelly. I will try writing to St. Louis first and will let you know what happens!
You can also contact us via the email address for the National Archives at St. Louis: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The correct address for the VA is:
VA Regional Office
Attn: VA/FOIA Privacy Act Officer
31 Hopkins Plaza
Baltimore, MD 21201
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Just to update my progress . . . Yesterday I emailed the National Archives in St. Louis with my pension file request (using the address supplied by Ms. Labinsky above). I received a reply almost immediately and was informed that St. Louis does not have the file. However, they were able to tell me by looking at the VA's BRILS system (Beneficiary Identification Records Locator Subsystem) that "an action was taken on that claim file in 2005," meaning that it was accessed for either a benefit or a genealogical search. Since the people associated with this file are long gone, I assume it was genealogy-related. It is very encouraging to learn that this file was in action as recently as 2005. My next step is to send a FOIA request to the VA. Fingers crossed!
That's great to hear about your progress!
Well, it has been a few months now and I have not heard anything from the VA. I know it could still be in process, but I wonder if it's time for a follow-up letter? I'm curious if anyone reading this has ever successfully retrieved a Civil War pension file from the VA? If so, how long did it take? Thanks!
It may take several years. The VA is not in the genealogy business, it is in the benefits and health care business. Family history requests are not a priority.
Well, I'm happy to say that this story had a successful outcome. I waited for two years without receiving any kind of reply from the VA, so I started asking around for other suggestions. One person said he had success in the past by writing to his local Congressperson. So that's what I did: earlier this spring I sent a letter to my local U.S. Representative asking him to contact the VA on my behalf. I had an email reply within a couple of days saying they would work on it. About two months later, I received a CD in the mail containing a full-color scan of my 2nd-great grandfather's Civil War pension file! Ironically, my original question was about whether or not the National Archives in St. Louis held any of these pension files. As it turned out, the CD did come from St. Louis after all, but it was the U.S. Department of Veteran Affair's Records Management Center in St. Louis, rather than NARA, who had it! Best of all, I received the CD free of charge.
Thanks for the update! So glad you were able to get the information you needed.
As a veteran, good luck with a FOIA. It does not matter what era of the vet or background (I come from a large military family on both sides). Be prepared to deal with a DMV like experience especially, if its the Navy since the also have the Marine Corps.