Keller’s bipartisan legislation would accelerate backlog of veterans’ cases
WILKES-BARRE — U.S. Representative Fred Keller said this week that American veterans have served our nation honorably, defending our freedoms and our way of life.
Keller, R-Middleburg, said the least our government can do to reimburse these heroes is to ensure they are not subjected to bureaucratic red tape when they return from service.
“However, that’s exactly what happened to hundreds of thousands of veterans who waited in limbo for months and years to receive basic veteran records,” Keller said.
Keller explained that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Personnel Records Center was forced to reduce operations to 25% capacity. Due to its reduced operations, the NPRC has accumulated a backlog of at least 500,000 applications.
Keller said those service records are essential for accessing medical benefits, filing disability claims and applying for badges or commendations such as a Purple Heart. Our office has handled countless cases of veterans and their families who were not taken care of in a timely manner.
“It’s not just problematic, it’s unacceptable,” Keller said. “We must work to resolve this issue as soon as possible.”
Keller said HR 7337 — the Veterans Records Access Act — proves this committee can work together in a bipartisan way to ensure we pass the bills needed by the American people, especially our veterans.
In short, Keller said this bill will ensure that the backlog of more than half a million records requests will be resolved while modernizing the National Personnel Records Center to ensure that a backlog of veterans will never happen again.
Keller said the backlog of NPRC registration applications began during the pandemic and was exasperated by poor return-to-work policies.
At its peak, the backlog was over 600,000 applications.
“I want to thank the President for agreeing to a number of our revisions to her original bill that will ensure backlog relief, many of which came from my legislation, HR 3710, the RECORDS Act, which won 75 co-sponsors in the House,” Keller said.
Keller said the most significant of these revisions is the requirement for the NPRC to maintain staffing levels in order to resolve the backlog.
“We need all 661 NPRC staff to show up regularly for in-person work if we’re going to fix this problem,” Keller said.
Since most of these documents are not yet stored digitally, Keller said NPRC employees need to be in the office to respond to document requests. The National Archives and Records Administration said earlier this month that to deal effectively with the backlog, it needed to respond to 90% of requests within 20 days.
Keller said this bill ensures employees go to work and meet the needs of our veterans.
“This bill is an opportunity for the committee to come together and ensure that our veterans receive the care and services they deserve,” Keller said. “I urge my colleagues to support this bill.”
DMVA thanks the volunteers
in its six veterans homes
During National Volunteer Month in April, the Pennsylvania Department of Military Affairs and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) would like to thank the hundreds of people who volunteer their time and talents to help the staff and residents of our six homes for veterans.
“We are grateful and grateful for every hour our volunteers spend caring for the residents of our Veterans Homes,” said Brig. Gen. (PA) Maureen Weigl, DMVA Deputy Adjutant General for Veterans Affairs. “We appreciate the sacrifices our residents have made to defend our nation, and we also appreciate the volunteers who bring extra joy, lend a helping hand and give a friendly smile to our residents every day. Our homes would not run as efficiently without the help of our dedicated volunteers.
Volunteers provide crucial assistance to staff at homes, including transporting residents to events, helping with meals, participating in fun activities, manning the snack stand, and accompanying them on field trips.
Throughout the month, each house will recognize volunteers with events including banquets, appreciation lunches and pinning ceremonies. Weigl and other senior DMVA leaders will attend the events to personally recognize the volunteers for their valuable service caring for the residents of the six homes.
In 1974, President Richard Nixon, by executive order, established National Volunteer Week to celebrate and recognize the efforts of all volunteers.
The State Department recalls Pennsylvanians must register to vote
Acting Secretary of State Leigh M. Chapman reminded Pennsylvanians this week that the deadline to register to vote in the May 17 primary is four weeks away.
“I urge all eligible Pennsylvanians who are not registered to vote to take a few minutes to register online before the May 2 deadline,” Secretary Chapman said. “Exercise your basic right to vote and make your voice heard in our next election.”
Pennsylvanians who are already registered to vote can check their registration status online and update their voter record with any changes in name, address or party affiliation.
To be eligible to vote in the May 17 primary, a person must be:
• A citizen of the United States for at least one month before the primary.
• A resident of Pennsylvania and the electoral district in which the person plans to register and vote for at least 30 days before the primary.
• Be at least 18 years old on or before the date of primary school.
Because Pennsylvania has a closed primary, only voters registered as Democrats and Republicans can vote for their party’s candidates in the November 8, 2022 general election.
Eligible voters will have the opportunity to vote for their parties’ candidates for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, all State House seats, State Senate seats in peer districts and to the Democratic and Republican State Committee. The department’s candidate database lists candidates running for office.
Regardless of party affiliation, all registered voters can vote on all local voting matters that may appear on the ballot.
Registered voters can request an absentee or absentee ballot online. Absentee or absentee ballot applications must be received by a voter’s county election commission by 5:00 p.m. on May 10. Mail-in ballots must be received by county election offices by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. Postmarks do not count.
Yudichak seeks to protect identity of lottery winners
In his role as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Community Economic and Recreational Development, Senator John Yudichak, I-Swoyersville, said this week that it has come to his attention that the identity and other personal information of the winners of Pennsylvania Lottery are currently designated as public information. under Pennsylvania Open Records Law.
“While recognizing the importance of transparency in the operations of the Pennsylvania Lottery, I believe it is equally important to protect the privacy of our lottery winners and to protect them from criminals and con artists who attack big jackpot winners,” said Yudichak, I-Swoyersville.
Yudichak said he intends to introduce legislation that will allow a winner to choose whether or not to release their name and other identifying information. Under this bill, a winner’s city and county of residence would remain public information, but the winner would have the option of disclosing or keeping their name and other identifying information confidential.
Garrity calls for policies promote energy independence
Treasurer Stacy Garrity joined other state finance officials across the country in calling on the Biden administration to implement policies to better promote and support U.S. energy production and achieve the energy independence.
“America has abundant natural resources right under our feet,” Garrity said. “The Biden administration should do everything in its power to support efforts to harness these materials to achieve energy independence, instead of supporting policies that make us more dependent on other nations. Investing in our own reliable sources of energy is an investment in American families and imperative for our national security.
In a letter to President Biden, Garrity and his counterparts from 22 other states detailed their concerns about energy policies implemented over the past year that have hurt U.S. energy production and the negative impact on businesses and working class families.
The letter said in part: “The depth and breadth of American innovation is unprecedented in the world, including the development of green technologies. Policies that impede these key American energy industries threaten our national security and drive up the cost of energy and, by extension, other goods and services, hurting the poorest Americans the most.
Garrity added, “The current economic climate, amplified by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, requires immediate action at the national level. Around the world, hard-working families are paying more to keep food on the table and paying too much at the gas pump. Our current federal policies make the problem even worse.
Contact Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.