A backlog at the federal agency that handles military records is causing headaches for Miami Valley veterans. It began with a temporary shutdown during the early days of the COVID crisis and only got worse.
Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Troy, a former Army Ranger, was so upset about it this week he went to take a look at the agency first-hand.
It is the National Personnel Records Center in Saint Louis and manages two million cubic feet of military personnel and medical records.
When he arrived Davidson was told the backlog of record requests stands at nearly 500,000 and may not be resolved entirely for another year or longer.
“I told them I am passionate about this but I’m filtering out the expletives. People are fighting mad over this and they should be,” Davidson said.
The backlog means a long delay for any veteran seeking records to qualify for a variety of benefits.
Chris North, Executive Director, Shelby County Veteran Service Commission, said all too frequently he has to tell veterans their request for benefits will have to wait until the records come through.
“We’re not looking at paperwork. We’re looking at the person sitting across from us at the desk. When we’ve done all we can, trying to get benefits and we cannot make it happen, it hurts,” said North.
Congress has already given the National Archives, which operates the records center, $15 million to help deal with the backlog.
The center traditionally employs 600 people, but during the COVID crisis the workforce on site has been reduced to 20% of their normal number.
In a written statement, the head of the agency said they are working on the situation.
“Providing our nation’s veterans with access to their records is a top priority for the National Archives,” said Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero.
When Davidson went to Saint Louis and asked about the plan of action, he was told the horizon for completing the current requests was going to be a long one.
“In 18 to 24 months, if they have everyone present they can clear this backlog, which is a completely unacceptable answer,” Davidson said.
Davidson’s next step is to take his case to the White House, hoping to talk with the President’s Chief of Staff to find a solution to the backlog with a much shorter time frame.