Keller: Access for Veterans Records Act Solves Backlog Harming Veterans
Bipartisan bill institutes new guidelines to alleviate and prevent future backlogs
WASHINGTON — Today, Congressman Fred Keller (R-Pa.) delivered remarks on the House floor in support of H.R. 7337, the Access for Veterans Records Act, a bipartisan bill to alleviate the veterans’ records backlog at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). More than two years ago, Oversight Committee Republicans launched an investigation into the NPRC’s backlog of more than 500,000 records requests that American veterans and their families rely on to prove eligibility for medical care and benefits. The main culprit of the backlog was federal employees working remotely, thereby being unable to process paper records. The Access for Veterans Records Act incorporates improvements Rep. Keller and Republicans made to ensure the backlog is fixed by requiring the NPRC to maintain in-person staffing levels and authorizes funds necessary to speed up the digital preservation of records so veterans will not face this problem in the future.
Below are Congressman Keller’s remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Over two years ago, Committee Republicans opened an investigation into the Veterans’ record request backlog at the National Personnel Records Center.
Pennsylvania Veterans and their families were frustrated and concerned with the lengthy delays they were experiencing as they tried to access their own documents outlining military service.
American Veterans and families rely on these records to prove eligibility for medical care and the benefits they are entitled to.
What we found was deeply disturbing.
The records at the NPRC are on paper—they cannot be accessed remotely.
When the NPRC shut down in-person operations and told its workforce to go home, the backlog piled up to more than 500,000 military service record requests.
Veterans put their lives on the line for their country, the least their country can do for them is ensure they can access the care and benefits they earned.
Based on our findings, we urged the Chairwoman to hold hearings.
We pressed the NPRC to get staff back to work in-person.
But, under the current administration, the backlog has grown to over 600,000 pending requests, with more added every day.
That is why in June of last year I introduced the RECORDS Act to require the NPRC to get back to work in person.
Finally, after significant pressure from Congressional Republicans, the NPRC returned to full in-person staffing on March 7th of this year.
I am pleased that this legislation has finally reached the House floor.
The Access for Veterans Records Act incorporates improvements Republicans made to ensure the backlog is fixed.
This bipartisan legislation requires the NPRC to maintain in-person staffing levels.
The bill also authorizes funds necessary to speed up the digital preservation of records so we will not face this problem in the future.
And finally, the bill contains reporting requirements to ensure proper accountability for addressing the current backlog and preventing future issues.
The Access for Veterans for Records Act is a bipartisan bill that demonstrates how Congress can work together to advance legislative reforms that are truly responsive to the needs of the American people and those who have given so much for their country.
I urge my colleagues to support this bill and I reserve the balance of my time.