Benefits claims for 32,000 military veterans are being delayed after the National Archives shut down for all but emergency cases.
The National Personnel Records Center, a unit of the Archives, shut down for months in 2020 with the exception of emergency requests. It opened up briefly to operate at low capacity but once again closed in the fall.
Records of older veterans need certification by the Archives to begin the benefits process. Their records are kept in paper archives, so when one of those veterans makes a claim, the archivists have to hand-retrieve the records out of the 60 million at the facility.
The Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs said that records requests were usually handled within 10 days, but now it takes about six months. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, the center has not operated at more than 20% capacity.
Veteran Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie is currently working with the national archivist to develop a new, expedited protocol.