47-113.2. Restricting access to military discharge documents.

(a) All military discharge documents filed on or after January 1, 2004, shall be considered a public record, but for confidential safekeeping and restricted access to such documents, these documents will be filed with the registers of deeds in this State. These documents are exempt from public inspection and access except as allowed in subsections (b) and (m) of this section.

(b) Definitions:

(1) Authorized party. - Four categories of authorized parties are recognized with respect to access to military discharge documents under subsection (e) of this section:

a. The subject of the document or the subject's widow or widower.

b. Agents and representatives of the subject authorized in writing:

1. By the subject or subject's widow or widower in a notarized authorization,

2. By a court to represent subject, or

3. By the subject's executor acting on behalf of a deceased subject.

c. Authorized agents of the Division of Veterans Affairs, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, or a court official with an interest in assisting the subject or the deceased subject's beneficiaries to obtain a benefit.

d. Agents or representatives of the North Carolina State Archives.

(2) Filing office. - The office where military discharge documents are recorded, registered, or filed in this State is the register of deeds.

(3) Military discharge document. - Any document that purports to represent a notice of separation from or service in the Armed Forces of the United States or armed forces of any state, including, but not limited to, Department of Defense Form 214 or 215, WD AGO 53, WD AGO 55, WD AGO 53-55, NAVMC 78-PD, and NAVPERS 553.

(c) A military discharge document shall be accepted for filing upon presentation in person.

(d) The filing officer may refuse to accept any document that is:

(1) Not submitted in person by an authorized party in accordance with subsection (b) of this section.

(2) Not an original, a carbon copy, or a photographic copy issued or certified by an agency of federal or State government.

(e) No copy of a military discharge document or any other information from such document filed after January 1, 2004, shall be made available other than in accordance with subsection (b) or (m) of this section.

(f) Certified copies of a military discharge document will be made available only in accordance with subsection (h) of this section and only by individual request.

(g) Uncertified copies of a military discharge document will be made available to an authorized party in accordance with subsection (b) of this section and only by individual request.

(h) The North Carolina Association of Registers of Deeds and the Division of Veterans Affairs shall adopt before January 1, 2004, such request forms and associated rules as are required to implement the provisions of this section. All filing offices shall use the forms and comply with the rules, as adopted.

(i) Completed request forms shall be maintained in the register of deeds for a period of one year.

(j) The request forms shall not be considered public records and are subject to the same restricted access as the military discharge document.

(k) In the event images of and the index to military discharge documents filed prior to January 1, 2004, have not been commingled with other publicly available document images and their index in a filing office, the images and the index will be maintained and are subject to all the provisions of this section that apply to newly filed documents.

(l) The register of deeds shall, to the greatest extent possible, take appropriate protective actions in accordance with any limitations determined necessary by the register of deeds with regard to records that were filed before January 1, 2004.

(m) Subsection (e) of this section shall not apply to images of military discharge documents that have been on file for over 80 years.

(n) There shall be no fee charged for filing military discharge documents or for providing certified copies of military discharge documents provided to those who have a right to access under subsection (e) of this section. Uncertified copy of a military discharge document that becomes public record under subsection (m) of this section is subject to fee as determined in G.S. 161-10(a)(11).

(o) Filing offices shall be responsible for the cost of compliance with this section.

(p) Recording officials shall not be liable for any damages that may result from good faith compliance with the provisions of this section.

(q) The words "register of deeds" appearing in this section shall be interpreted to mean "register of deeds, assistant register of deeds, or deputy register of deeds." (2003-248, s. 2; 2011-183, s. 38; 2011-246, s. 8; 2013-15, s. 1.)