House Committee on Oversight and Reform Republicans, led by Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.) and Representative Fred Keller (R-Pa.), wrote Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) calling for a hearing on the records request backlog at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) National Personnel Records Center (NRPC).
The backlog is affecting veterans and their families seeking records for the purpose of ensuring proper military honors at a funeral, small business loans, medical claims, veteran benefits, and more. The reduction in on-site personnel during the pandemic has resulted in a massive backlog of nearly 500,000 requests due to records being inaccessible remotely. As of June 9, there was no timeline for returning the workforce back to in-person pre-pandemic levels.
“While it appears that NARA will increase the number of employees onsite by July 19, 2021, it is troubling that the workforce is still not back to work at full capacity even though the backlog stands at nearly 500,000. As such, we urge you to hold a hearing to conduct oversight on why there was not a plan to address records request effectively during the pandemic, how the agency plans to resolve the backlog, and why the workforce has taken so long to return to pre-pandemic levels,” wrote the Republican lawmakers.
“The Committee should also examine legislative solutions to ensure that there is a sufficient number of employees working in-person to process records requests, including Committee Member Keller’s H.R. 3710, the RECORDS Act of 2021, a bill which would require a comprehensive plan to address adequate in-person staffing levels at the NPRC. We must ensure that veterans are never again unable to receive the records they need for benefits earned while serving the country. Veterans fought for our nation and it is times like these that we must fight for them,” concluded the Republicans.
On May 6, Republicans wrote Archivist of the U.S. David Ferriero demanding action on the backlog. NARA provided a briefing to the Committee as a result of the letter during which time the Committee was informed that the backlog was primarily related to DD-214 separation forms, which veterans need in order to obtain benefits.
On May 20, Ranking Member Comer and Chairwoman Maloney, with the support of eight other congressional leaders, wrote the Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III calling for him to prioritize a NARA request for assistance addressing the backlog.
The full letter to Chairwoman Maloney is available here.