Tester Urges Timely Service Record Retrievals for Montana Veterans During Pandemic: ‘We simply cannot leave our nation’s veterans behind’
Ranking Member seeks path forward with National Personnel Records Center to keep staff safe while providing veterans with earned benefits
(U.S. Senate) – Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member Jon Tester is urging the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) to provide timely service of record retrievals for veterans in Montana and across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result of the ongoing national health crisis, veterans nationwide have been experiencing increasing delays in NPRC’s retrieval of their service records, which have impeded their ability to prove eligibility to receive benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In a letter to NPRC Director Scott Levins, Tester requested that the center clarify its plan to keep NPRC employees safe from the coronavirus, while implementing measures to expedite record retrievals for veterans who are experiencing delays.
“Although I understand the risks posed by COVID-19, and the priority placed on the health and safety of our public servants, we must ensure our nation’s veterans receive critical assistance during this unprecedented time,” Tester wrote to Director Levins. “Therefore, I respectfully request clarification on NPRC’s plan to mitigate employees’ risk of exposure to the virus, and measures to provide veterans more timely responses to their record requests.”
Tester continued, “…It is imperative that we mitigate any delay that jeopardizes timely consideration of their claims. In April and May, my staff was informed that record requests for veterans who did not fall under those urgent categories would have to wait up to 150 days. In the beginning of June, my office was informed that there is no longer any estimate or timetable for when these veterans can receive their records. While I understand and support the need to keep NPRC employees safe, we simply cannot leave our nation’s veterans behind.”
“There are many veterans like myself in Montana and across the United States who need timely access to their military service records in order to obtain information that will allow them to properly file claims with VA,” said Don Regnier, a Vietnam Veteran from Billings, Montana. “COVID-19 has caused many hardships, but veterans should never be left waiting for months on end—especially when it comes to obtaining the benefits they’ve earned.”
A copy of Tester’s letter can be found HERE.