Congressman Keller, Oversight and Reform Committee Republicans demand hearing on growing backlog of veterans’ records requests
Washington, D.C. — Today, Congressman Fred Keller (PA-12) and House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer (KY-01) led a letter to Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney calling for a hearing on the records request backlog at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) National Personnel Records Center (NRPC).
Congressman Keller has been leading the effort in Congress to pressure the NRPC, the federal agency responsible for processing veterans’ service records which are necessary for veterans to access benefits, to reopen to pre-pandemic staffing levels.
“While it appears that NARA will increase the number of employees onsite by July 19, 2021, it is troubling that the workforce is still not back to work at full capacity even though the backlog stands at nearly 500,000. As such, we urge you to hold a hearing to conduct oversight on why there was not a plan to address records request effectively during the pandemic, how the agency plans to resolve the backlog, and why the workforce has taken so long to return to pre-pandemic levels,” the Oversight Republicans said.
“The Committee should also examine legislative solutions to ensure that there is a sufficient number of employees working in-person to process records requests, including Committee Member Keller’s H.R. 3710, the RECORDS Act of 2021, a bill which would require a comprehensive plan to address adequate in-person staffing levels at the NPRC,” the letter continued.
On the letter to Chairwoman Maloney, Congressman Fred Keller made the following statement:
“It is completely unacceptable that America’s veterans and their families are waiting—in some cases over a year—to obtain service records for benefits they earned through their to service to our country. While the National Personnel Records Center was forced to reduce its on-site operations due to COVID-19 restrictions, it’s evident that there was no plan to ensure that records requests would continue to be fulfilled in a timely manner. That is why I joined Ranking Member Comer and the Committee on Oversight and Reform in calling for an immediate hearing to address the 500,000 records requests backlog and examine legislative solutions, like the RECORDS Act, so something like this never happens again.”
House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer (KY-01) said:
“America’s veterans fought for us, but the federal government isn’t even willing to return to work to provide veterans with their records. The result: almost half a million requests from veterans and their families delayed for months. This is an utter tragedy and a poor reflection on the gratitude we should pay to the brave men and women and their families who served our country. Democrats are as aware of this massive records backlog as Republicans, but the committee has yet to hold a hearing. Chairwoman Maloney needs to schedule a hearing so we can not only address this backlog but put safeguards in place so veterans never again are prevented from receiving their records in a timely fashion.”
Read the letter HERE.
Fox News covered the letter:
Republicans on the House Oversight Committee are calling for a congressional hearing on the backlog of 500,000 record requests at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration's (NARA) National Personnel Records Center (NPRC).
The major delay in obtaining records, including military DD-214 separation forms needed to obtain veterans' benefits, worsened during the coronavirus pandemic when federal workers were sent home and unable to physically process the requests for records in a timely fashion.
Republicans say the agency must be held accountable in a public committee hearing to ensure such a backlog never happens again.
The backlog has taken its toll on families. For instance, 90-year-old Susana Mallinson has been waiting over a year for her husband Frank's military service records from the NPRC facility in St. Louis.
"It's very stressful. At times I cannot sleep, thinking 'why is it so hard? Something that belongs to me, something that is there,'" Mallinson told Fox News recently.
The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) recently announced plans to fully resume in-person operations as early as mid-July. As part of its announcement, the NPRC set a deadline to finalize its employee re-entry plans “no later than July 19, 2021.” These plans may include “hybrid” work arrangements, incorporating both in-person and remote staffing operations.
In June, Keller introduced the RECORDS Act, legislation that directs the NPRC to fully re-open and issue a report to Congress on efforts to eliminate the backlog. The bill currently has 43 co-sponsors and was endorsed by the Lycoming Office of Veterans Affairs.
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