Lawmakers have signed a bipartisan letter calling on the Department of Defense to intervene after coronavirus delays caused a major backlog of requests from veterans seeking essential service records.
In the missive, which was sent on Thursday, 10 senior politicians called on Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to address the data pile-up. Signatories of the letter included Rep. Carolyn Maloney, chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, D-N.Y., and Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wisc., who is a ranking member on the committee’s National Security Subcommittee.
Veterans across the U.S. require access to the records in order to receive service-related benefits such as medical treatment, unemployment assistance, home loans and emergency services for unhoused veterans.
Since implementing workplace restrictions at the start of the coronavirus crisis last year, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has been unable to process thousands of requests for veterans’ records.
The call for assistance comes after NARA earlier this month requested help for pandemic recovery operations at its personnel records center. At the time, the agency’s Chief Operating Officer William Bosanko asked the DOD to support the off-site sorting and batching of military personnel folders to speed the retrieval of records.
“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.
“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,” the lawmakers said in the letter. “We respectfully ask DOD to prioritize and fulfill NARA’s request.”
According to NARA, as of May 10 the agency had a backlog of 500,000 delayed requests for veterans’ records.