Smith Demands Key Federal Agency Fully Reopen To Eliminate Veteran Records Request Backlog
WASHINGTON, D.C. - On January 24, 2022, Congressman Jason Smith joined House Veterans Affairs Committee Ranking Member Mike Bost (IL-12) and 111 of his House Republican colleagues in writing the Director of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) demanding the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis fully reopen their offices. The NPRC is the federal agency that keeps all military service records, and to obtain federal benefits – including burials, emergency medical treatments, or homeless assistance – the NPRC must verify a veteran’s service record. As of January 6, 2022, the NPRC says on its own website the agency is operating at an on-site staffing level of 25 percent of its pre-pandemic level.
“Our nation’s military heroes are being failed by an administration that uses a permanent pandemic narrative to justify allowing the government to operate at unacceptable staffing levels,” said Congressman Jason Smith. “The result of this gross negligence is our nation’s heroes have to wait weeks or months longer to receive benefits they’ve earned. These delays can’t continue. We need transparency, and we need the NPRC fully re-opened immediately. Anything less would be a failure to our nation’s veterans.”
In their letter, the members state, “The most glaring discrepancy is the neglect of the NPRC in processing critical request for copies of DD-214 forms. The NPRC’s website declares that 45% staffing would enable it to resume service on routine requests for DD-214s, yet many veterans remain unable to access this form. DD-214s are essential for a myriad of critical services. For example, some veterans have been unable to obtain the VA home loans due to long delays in receiving DD-214s. More significantly, veterans have been denied their appropriate retirement pay levels due to not being able to demonstrate their military service for federal retirement consideration. We all know that our veterans put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms. While the NPRC employees have yet to miss a paycheck, the veterans they serve have been denied access to documents that have a significant impact on their financial livelihood.”
The letter asks for the Director of the Archives to present a plan to re-open the NPRC no later than February 7. The NPRC is responsible for an array of veteran services, including honorary medal replacements and health care and disability compensation documents. The NPRC continues to cite health precautions for not being fully staffed, while veterans suffering from health issues need immediate attention. Congressman Smith’s office is helping numerous veterans who have reached out seeking casework assistance because they can’t obtain a timely response for their records requests.
Click here to view the full letter.