WASHINGTON – In case you missed it, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan is working to address delays in veterans receiving benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) amid the COVID-19 pandemic. After hearing from New Hampshire veterans who have experienced delays, Senator Hassan is urging the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), which maintains the records of millions of veterans, to speed up the processing of veterans’ records requests so that benefit claims can be adjudicated. The Union Leader reported on the Senator’s efforts and interviewed William Fuller of Littleton, a Granite Stater who has been directly impacted by these delays.
See below for excerpts from the Union Leader article on the Senator’s efforts:
By Kevin Landrigan
Forty years after going AWOL from the U.S. Army and still dealing with decades of post-traumatic stress and “anger issues,” William Fuller of Littleton finally had his conditions confirmed by government experts and looked forward to receiving Veterans Administration benefits.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the national clearinghouse in St. Louis, where 60 million paper records of veterans are stored, was shut down for three months.
Now, Fuller, 69, is one of thousands of vets caught in a bureaucratic maze, waiting to receive official documents they need for everything from getting a job to buying a house.
[…] U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., said at least 20 veterans have come to her with similar cases.
On Tuesday, she wrote to Scott Levins, National Personnel Records Center director, urging him to come up with a comprehensive plan to break the backlog.
“After sacrificing so much in defense of our freedom, veterans should receive the support that they need and have earned in a timely manner, including all of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits they are eligible to receive,” Hassan wrote in the letter, which the Union Leader obtained.
“For this reason, I encourage the NRPC to take all necessary steps to safely process military personnel records requests in an expeditious manner,” Hassan said.
[…] In the agency’s most recent public update in late June, Levins said his agency would move into “phase one” of reopening in early August, answering the requests for records most urgently needed for home loans and employment.
As for other requests, Levins could give no timetable.
“We regret we are unable to provide a more optimistic forecast for the resumption of normal service levels,” Levins wrote. “We hope the above on-line resources are helpful and greatly appreciate your patience during these unprecedented times.”
Hassan said the first priority must be to keep the employees safe, but the agency must identify to Congress what additional resources it needs to clear the backlog.
She also urged the agency to craft a plan to digitize all military records. Most of those before 2000 are available only as paper copies.
“This antiquated system has seriously hampered the ability of many veterans to receive key documents from the NPRC,” Hassan said.