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Wonder What’s Hidden in Your Personnel File?


Did you know you can easily request a copy of your official personnel file? Or if you’re a security clearance holder, it’s possible to request a copy of your Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS) records or background investigation?

All of this information is available via a simple Freedom of Information Act or Privacy Act request.

Why would anyone want access to this information?

When it comes to JPAS records, it’s a good idea to request a copy if you’re ever issued a statement of reasons for denial or revocation of your security clearance. This may occur for current federal employees undergoing financial problems, or who are accused of a security violation. Believe it or not, sometimes requesting a copy of your JPAS record is the quickest and easiest way to see why your account was flagged.

If you aren’t in a cleared position and are unsure of your clearance status, a copy of your JPAS record will reveal any flags that may be in your account, and whether or not your security clearance is current or expired — that’s vital information if you’re applying for a new position and an employer asks about your clearance status.

If for no other reason, it’s a good idea to have a copy of your personnel file so you’re armed with the correct information if you encounter inaccuracies. It’s easier to refute someone with paper than with what you think is in your files.

Federal employees can request a copy of their SF-50 personnel file through their agency’s human resources office. Simply email a request and they should be able to print a copy of your personnel file on the spot.

Former feds can send a signed and dated letter to the National Personnel Records Center. Only former employees’ records are kept there.

Information to include:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security number
  • Name and location of employing federal agencies
  • Dates of service

Mail your request to:

National Personnel Records Center, Annex
1411 Boulder Boulevard
Valmeyer, IL 62295

To request a copy of your JPAS record, mail a signed and dated letter to:

Defense Manpower Data Center
ATTN: Privacy Act Branch
P.O Box 168
Boyers, PA 16020-0168

Your personnel files and background investigation records are just some of the information available through a FOIA request. Check out this article for more information on FOIA, as well as tips on how to draft a request that will get a response.

The main thing to remember? Keep it simple — provide just the information required, no more, no less. The good news is that for a basic request such as a personnel file, you can expect a response as quickly as a couple of weeks. If you need the information expedited for any reason, be sure to indicate that on your request. This is especially important if you’re requesting a copy of your JPAS files to respond to a statement of reasons – you’ll want the information quickly in order to draft your response.

Lindy Kyzer is the editor of and a former Defense Department employee.

(Image via cigdem/

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