One Reason to Confirm National Archivist Fast? Sending Out Veterans' BenefitsHistorians in the News
tags: National Archives, Veterans Affairs
President Biden’s nominee to be archivist of the United States told lawmakers on Tuesday that if confirmed, her priorities would include reducing the backlog of over 300,000 veterans’ records requests and looking for opportunities to declassify older records.
Colleen Shogan, most recently a senior vice president and director at the White House Historical Association, testified for the second time before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee after the president re-nominated her in the new session of Congress.
“Of utmost importance to me” is working to reduce the COVID-19 pandemic induced backlog of military service members’ records at the National Archives and Records Administration National Personnel Records Center located in St. Louis, Shogan said. “Veterans need access to these records, so they can claim the benefits that they’re guaranteed.” The center has been working with the Veterans Affairs Department to take on this massive task.
If confirmed, Shogan said her first trip would be to St. Louis to observe operations at the records center and see what could be done to speed up the December 2023 deadline to reduce the backlog, as outlined in a recent plan required by the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act. The annual defense policy bill also gave NARA $60 million to address the backlog.
“As of February 13, 2023, the total count of unanswered requests for military service records at the [records center] stood at 404,000,” which includes backlogged and new ones, according to the plan, obtained by Government Executive. “This is a reduction of 200,000 or 33% from its peak of 604,000 in March 2022. Since April 1, 2022, the [records center] has responded to almost 1.1 million requests for military service records, including both new and backlogged records requests.” The number of unanswered, overdue records requests is about 338,000.
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