The National Archives recently announced the successful resolution of a longstanding issue concerning a backlog of Veterans’ records requests at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.
The backlog, which had accumulated due to limitations on in-person work during the COVID-19 pandemic, has finally been cleared.
Archivist of the United States Colleen Shogan expressed her satisfaction with this accomplishment, stating, “Clearing the backlog of record requests at the National Personnel Records Center has been my top priority, and I am proud that we’ve gotten this done. I want to recognize the hard work and dedication of the National Archives staff. They have worked overtime and across weekends and holidays to achieve this goal and ensure we meet our obligation to those who’ve served.”
Although the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) did not completely shut down during the pandemic, it significantly reduced its operations due to occupancy restrictions in its facilities.
This staffing reduction resulted in a backlog that had grown to over 600,000 requests.
This backlog had been causing difficulties for Veterans who required hard copies of their records for various purposes, including disability claims, proof of Veteran status for benefits, legal documentation, personal archives, and other essential uses.
The elimination of this backlog was achieved through a combination of technological updates, the addition of more personnel and contractors, and extended working hours, as outlined in the recent news release.
Lawmakers, who had previously expressed their frustration with the backlog, also acknowledged the role of a 2022 congressional law that allocated $60 million to the National Archives to address the issue.
The law also mandated the agency to develop a concrete plan for clearing the backlog.
Senator Jon Ossoff of Georgia, one of the lead sponsors of the bipartisan Access for Veterans to Records Act, emphasized the importance of Veterans’ access to their service records for claiming benefits and care earned through their service.
He praised the progress made in clearing the backlog while acknowledging that more work remains ahead.
Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota, the bill’s other lead sponsor, expressed his satisfaction with the resolution of the backlog, which he considered “unacceptable.”
He pledged to continue working across the aisle to ensure that Veterans have access to the services and benefits they have rightfully earned.
With the backlog now eliminated, Veterans can anticipate that routine requests for separation documents will take less than a week to process, while more complex applications may take around 20 days, according to the National Archives’ news release.
The National Archives also disclosed ongoing efforts to digitize records, facilitated by multiple agreements with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
These measures are aimed at expediting the digitization process and improving accessibility to records.
Scott Levins, the director of the National Personnel Records Center, acknowledged the challenges posed by the pandemic and the resulting backlog but also highlighted the positive transformations that have occurred.
These changes, including the transition to electronic processes, position the NPRC for success in the years to come. Levins noted, “We are routinely doing things today that were seemingly impossible before the pandemic and which position us for success for years to come.”