Purpose: The purpose of the study is to describe medical record retrieval for a study validating claims-based algorithms used to identify seven adverse events of special interest (AESI) in a Medicare population. Methods: We analyzed 2010–2011 Medicare claims of women with postmenopausal osteoporosis and men ≥65 years of age in the Medicare 5% national sample. The final cohorts included beneficiaries covered continuously for 12+ months by Medicare parts A, B, and D and not enrolled in Medicare Advantage before starting follow-up. We identified beneficiaries using each AESI algorithm and randomly selected 400 women and 100 men with each AESI for medical record retrieval. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services provided beneficiary contact information, and we requested medical records directly from providers, without patient contact. Results: We selected 3331 beneficiaries (women: 2272; men: 559) for whom we requested 3625 medical records. Overall, we received 1738 [47.9% (95%CI 46.3%, 49.6%)] of the requested medical records. We observed small differences in the characteristics of the total population with AESIs compared with those randomly selected for retrieval; however, no differences were seen between those selected and those retrieved. We retrieved 54.7% of records requested from hospitals compared with 26.3% of records requested from physician offices (p < 0.001). Retrieval did not differ by sex or vital status of the beneficiaries. Conclusions: Our national medical record validation study of claims-based algorithms produced a modest retrieval rate. The medical record procedures outlined in this paper could have led to the improved retrieval from our previous medical record retrieval study. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.