Veterans’ records agency swamped with requests for data

The St. Louis-based agency responsible for storing military personnel and medical records is so bombarded with requests for information that it takes nearly three months to respond to inquiries, according to a new report by the General Accounting Office. The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), part of the National Archives and Records Administration, maintains veterans' medical and personnel records and responds to requests for the records. The agency stores more than 55 million records, which contain information that veterans frequently need to get disability payments, health benefits, education benefits, home loan guarantees and permission to be buried in national cemeteries. In its report, "National Personnel Records Center: Plan Needed to Show How Timeliness Goal Will be Achieved" (GAO-04-599), GAO found that it took NPRC an average of 54 days to respond to record requests in fiscal 2000. Only 6 percent of written requests for information were answered in 10 working days. "This report confirms the troubles that veterans have reported to me, and lays the foundation for Congress to provide the resources and legislative help to improve services at the NPRC," said Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., one of four senators who requested the report. In the fist six months of fiscal 2001, NPRC's backlogged requests totaled 214,000, GAO found, and the agency estimates that number will grow to more than 240,000 by December 2001. Until 1999, NPRC employees processed inquiries by digging through cardboard boxes stacked on 10-foot-high shelves, and sending handwritten forms out with copies of the records. It wasn't until February 2000 that telephones were installed on processors' desks so they could get extra information needed to clarify unclear requests. NPRC attributes the backlog to the loss of more than 15 percent of its workforce in fiscal 1995 and the ongoing implementation of a business process reengineering project, which aims to improve timeliness. But according to GAO, response time is not likely to improve in the near future. It is unclear whether NPRC will meet a timeliness goal of answering 95 percent of its information requests within 10 days by fiscal 2005, the report said. "In the long term, it is not clear that the reengineering project will result in NPRC meeting its timeliness goals," GAO found. "NPRC does not have a plan that shows how it will achieve its fiscal year 2005 timeliness goal." According to GAO, the agency has not specified time frames, staff or production levels needed to meet the 2005 goal. GAO estimates it will take seven years to eliminate the agency's backlog of requests. GAO recommended that the National Archives insist that NPRC develop a plan that shows what is needed to meet the 2005 timeliness goal. In a written response to the report, Deputy Archivist Lewis Bellardo agreed that a quantitative plan is needed. A completed plan is expected by mid-July. Sens. Tom Daschle, D-S.D, Tom Harkin, D-Iowa and John Rockefeller, D-W.V., requested the report along with Wellstone.
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.