Keller addressing veterans issues
In response to growing concerns over the lack of access to vital military service records and benefits, Congressman Fred Keller, R-Middleburg, on july 14 hosted a roundtable discussion in Williamsport with local Veterans Affairs officials to highlight his legislative efforts and identify avenues for continued cooperation to improve the quality and accessibility of services for local veterans.
The event was attended by officials from the Wilkes-Barre Veterans Administration A as well as veterans’ service officers from seven of the 15 counties that encompass Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District.
During their discussion, Keller emphasized the backlog of more than 500,000 vital records requests that remain unprocessed by the National Personnel Records Center. These are documents needed to obtain VA benefits, adjudicate disability claims, and request a commendation, award, or regalia.
Last year, the NPRC was forced to scale down its on-site operations due to COVID-19 precautions and is currently staffed at only 25 percent capacity. As a result, area veterans and their families have been forced to wait up to a year to receive medical care or access benefits earned through military service.
Keller highlighted the Rrcords Act, legislation he introduced in June which would compel the NPRC to fully resume in-person operations and present a report to Congress on its plans to expedite veterans’ records requests. The bill has attracted 44 co-sponsors and was recently endorsed by the Lycoming Office of Veterans Affairs.
Also discussed were concerns about identification cards, facilitating VA claims, and strategies for local, state, and federal partners to work collaboratively to improve veterans’ services across the board.
Following the event, Keller said, “The brave men and women who have served our country in uniform deserve a government that is responsive to their needs and that works diligently on their behalf. Our discussion today reaffirmed that the Records Act is needed and works toward establishing long-term solutions to address the delays at the NPRC. I’m grateful for the partnership our office has with local officials as we continue to put pressure on the NPRC to make good on the promise that America makes to our service members, who have sacrificed so much in the protection of our freedoms and way of life.”