February 26, 2008
The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the facts presented in your correspondence.
I have received your letter concerning rights of access to military discharge records, certificates of honorable discharge, that have been filed voluntarily by veterans in offices of county clerks.
In this regard, although those records had generally been available to the public on request, §250 of the Military Law was amended in 2005 and restricts access. That statute now provides in relevant part that:
“No filed certificate or any information contained therein, shall be disclosed to any person except the veteran or parent, spouse, dependent or child of the veteran, representative of the estate of the deceased veteran or a public official, acting within the scope of his or her employment, unless such disclosure is authorized in writing by the veteran. The provisions of this section also apply to the counties within the city of New York.”
Based on the change in the law, access to the records in question is limited to the circumstances described in the language quoted above.
I hope that the foregoing serves to clarify your understanding and that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman