The long-term reliability and validity of telephone lay interview assessments of alcoholism were examined in the context of a large national community-based survey of over 8,000 male Vietnam era veterans. A subsample of 146 men was interviewed twice by telephone using the same structured interview an average of 15 months apart to evaluate the long-term reliability of alcoholism symptoms and diagnoses. In addition, a search of Department of Veterans Affairs patient treatment files of inpatient hospitalizations between 1970 and 1993 yielded a subsample of 89 interviewed men with a past discharge diagnosis of alcohol dependence. The test-retest reliability of alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence diagnoses was good, with kappa coefficients of 0.74 and 0.61, respectively. The reliability of individual alcoholism symptoms was fair to good, with kappas of 0.46 to 0.67. Ninety-six percent of individuals identified by Department of Veterans Affairs patient treatment files as having an alcohol dependence diagnosis were correctly diagnosed by the telephone interview. The results of the present study provide additional evidence for the long-term reliability and validity of lifetime alcoholism diagnoses, and suggest that the reliability and validity of telephone interview assessments of alcoholism are as good as that of an in-person interview. Telephone administration of structured psychiatric interviews appears to be an attractive alternative to in-person interviewing for gathering information about alcoholism and alcohol-related problems.