A bipartisan group of lawmakers want the Defense Department to quickly address the backlog of veterans’ requests to acquire copies of their military records. In a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said that the backlog – pegged at more than 500,000 as of May 10 – is preventing veterans from submitting timely benefits claims to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The situation is particularly acute because of the Covid-19 pandemic, they wrote. Reps. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-New York, and James Comer, R-Kentucky, lead the list of committee members who signed the letter. Maloney and Comer are the committee’s chair and ranking member, respectively.
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) manages veterans’ records at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis. The agency’s chief operating officer, William J. Bosanko, wrote a letter to the Defense Department earlier this month stating that NARA has been hindered by restrictions the pandemic has placed on its employees. The agency keeps only paper records, which are not accessible remotely, Bosanko wrote. He asked for support in setting up an off-site facility to handle the outstanding requests.
Lawmakers simply want the problem resolved.
“Veterans and their families depend on timely access to personnel records in order to receive life-saving medical care, emergency housing assistance, proper military burials, and other vital benefits earned through service to our country,” they wrote. “We urge DoD to support the NPRC’s work and to ensure that we uphold our solemn pledge to care for our nation’s veterans.”