Republicans on the House Oversight Committee Call for Hearing on Growing VA Records BacklogThursday, July 29, 2021
Republicans in the House have shined a light on the enormous VA records backlog that has led to extraordinary waiting periods for veterans and their families trying to receive benefits.
The House Oversight Committee Republicans are calling for a congressional hearing on the backlog of approximately 500,000 record requests and the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration’s National Personnel Records Center. During the pandemic, delays at the NPRC were exacerbated by prolonged shutdowns of offices and workers that were sent home. Pivotal forms like the DD-214, which is instrumental in determining and obtaining veterans’ benefits, were unable to be looked up during this time.
Even after workers have returned, the progress on the VA records backlog has been slow going. James Comer, a top Republican on the committee, calls the situation “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.” “America’s veterans fought for us, but the federal government isn’t even willing to return to work to provide veterans with their records,” he said.
On Monday, July 12th, Comer and 19 other House Republicans sent a letter to the chair of the committee, Carolyn Maloney. They called on the leadership to call a congressional hearing to discuss the backlog. A bipartisan briefing happened last month with the records administration, but Republicans want to bring the issue to the public to ensure that the situation never occurs again.
None of the records at the NPRC can be accessed remotely, as they only exist in paper form. The facility in St. Louis holds over 2 million cubic feet of military medical and personnel records.
Thousands of families have waited over a year for their VA records to be retrieved from the facility. Susana Mallinson, whose husband served in Japan in the U.S. Army during World War II and died in 2000, says she is barely making ends meet. She survives on just over $1,000 a month while waiting for her husband’s records to apply for spousal benefits with the VA. She is forced to live below the poverty line.
Susana is not alone. The National Archives confirmed that the backlog stands at approximately 500,000 requests. The agency has expanded the workweek to include the weekends, but so far, these efforts have not had a significant impact on making a dent in the backlog. Yet, relief may be on the way with more than 100 additional staffers, which doubles the number of supporting contractors.
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