Oversight Committee Applauds House Passage of Bipartisan Bill to Address Backlog of Requests for Veterans’ Records
Washington, D.C. (July 14, 2022)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, Rep. James Comer, Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, and Rep. Fred Keller, issued the following statements after the House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Access for Veterans to Records Act:
“With the pandemic contributing to long wait times for veterans to access their records, it is clear that our records system is in urgent need of reform,” said Chairwoman Maloney. “This bill will help provide the funding the National Personnel Records Center needs to ensure that veterans can more easily access their well-deserved benefits. I urge the Senate to swiftly bring up this crucial bill for a vote, and I look forward to helping lead the continued bipartisan efforts to ensure our nation treats the women and men who have proudly served our country with the respect they deserve.”
“Our nation’s veterans and their families have faced inexcusable wait times for records that are necessary to obtain critical services because federal bureaucrats didn’t show up to work in-person. The Access for Veterans to Records Act makes necessary reforms to modernize the process for obtaining veterans records and requires federal workers to work in-person to eliminate the backlog. I thank Representative Keller for his tireless work on behalf of our nation’s brave veterans and urge the Senate to take up this bill immediately to provide relief to those who served and defended the United States,” said Ranking Member Comer.
“As Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, I strongly support this bipartisan legislation, which will better enable the National Personnel Records Center to resolve the backlog of more than 500,000 pending military personnel records requests. We owe a solemn debt of gratitude to the men and women who have worn our nation’s uniform, and I am pleased that this bill will further our national commitment to ensuring that America’s veterans receive benefits and services that are reflective of their sacrifice and patriotism,” said Chairman Lynch.
“For over two years, our team has advocated for America’s veterans who have faced delays in receiving their military service records. The Access for Veterans to Records Act will ensure that the backlog of more than 500,000 records requests will be resolved while also modernizing the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) to prevent a backlog like this from ever building again. We were able to negotiate major provisions from our RECORDS Act into this bill, including requirements for the NPRC to maintain in-person operations, coordinate efforts with the VA, and meet established benchmarks showing clear reductions in its records backlog. Our Veterans served our nation honorably, defending our freedoms and way of life. The least we can do to repay these heroes is to ensure they are not subjected to prolonged wait times to access the benefits they earned through their service,” said Rep. Keller.
“Byzantine information technology systems must not hinder veterans from accessing vital health care, housing, and unemployment assistance. This bill will eliminate an inexcusable years-long backlog, bolster cybersecurity, and improve the digitization and preservation of records. I look forward to its enactment,” said Chairman Connolly.
The Access for Veterans to Records Act will help provide resources to address the veterans’ records requests backlog at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). NPRC—which operates within the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)—houses records that are essential for veterans to receive service-related benefits, including medical treatment, unemployment assistance, and emergency housing services. A reduced workforce at the NPRC due to the pandemic, combined with the fact that most of these records are not digitized, exacerbated the backlog of veterans’ records requests. Although NPRC has reduced the backlog to 515,000 veterans’ records requests from a peak of 603,000 in March 2022, it is still significant.
This legislation requires NARA to submit a detailed plan for eliminating the backlog and authorizes $60 million for NARA to directly address the NPRC backlog by improving response times to veterans’ requests for military records, improving cybersecurity, and improving the digitization and preservation of records.
Committee Members Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, Rep. Ro Khanna, Rep. Jamie Raskin, Rep. Cori Bush, Rep. Katie Porter, Rep. Jim Cooper, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Rep. Jackie Speier, Rep. Shontel Brown, Rep. John Sarbanes, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Rep. Peter Welch, Rep. Yvette Herrell, Rep. Glenn Grothman and Rep. Nancy Mace cosponsored the legislation, along with Rep. Brian Higgins and Rep. Mike Levin.
Click here to read the bill text.
Click here to read the one-pager.