The House of Representatives on July 14 approved the Access for Veterans to Records Act with a large bipartisan majority of 406-21.

The legislation sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., aims to sharply reduce the backlog of requests for records from the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). That backlog stood at about 600,000 requests earlier this year.

If enacted, the bill would:

  • Require the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to submit a plan for eliminating the NPRC backlog to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs within 30 days of enactment;
  • Require NARA to include target timeframes to reduce the backlog and steps to improve infrastructure and customer service for requestors in its plan; and
  • Authorize $60 million for NARA to address the backlog by improving response times for responding to veteran’s requests, improving cybersecurity, and improving the digital preservation of records.

“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 Rep. Maloney, who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Committee.  “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.”

“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,” said Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., ranking member on House Oversight. “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.”

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.  The House bill does not appear to have a companion bill in the Senate.

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Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.