Phased Reopening of National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis
On October 5, 2020, the NPRC entered into Phase Two of its gradual reopening following closure due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. As additional staff are brought on site during this phase, the NPRC will continue to service time-sensitive requests, such as those involving homeless veterans in need of shelter, medical emergencies, funerals for deceased veterans, home loan applications, and employment opportunities. Once the backlog of these requests has been eliminated, it will begin to service requests for reports of separation (DD Forms 214 and equivalent). These are the documents most often needed by veterans for benefit claims, and they normally represent nearly half of the NPRC’s workload. As a result of the pandemic closure, we have a significant backlog of these requests, some of which date back to February.
With the exception of the time-sensitive requests described above, we will begin servicing requests for reports of separation on a first-in, first-out basis. Due to on-site staffing limitations instituted to facilitate social distancing, it will take an extended period for the NPRC to catch up on the large backlog of these types of requests that have accumulated since the pandemic-related closure. All other requests will continue to be delayed. Because local health conditions will drive the decision to enter Phase Three, we are unable to provide a projected date.
If you need a copy of your military service record for emergency service involving a homeless veteran seeking shelter, medical emergency, funeral service, home loan application, or employment opportunity, you must complete Standard Form 180, Requests Pertaining to Military Records, and fax a signed copy to (314) 801-0764.
The NPRC was closed from March 23 through June 23, 2020, due to the pandemic. While it was closed, a limited number of essential staff continued to report on-site each day to service urgent requests, such as those involving homeless veterans in need of shelter, medical emergencies, and funerals for deceased veterans.
The NPRC facility is located in an area which has one of the highest per capita rates of confirmed COVID-19 cases in St. Louis County. Before the pandemic there were 1,000 federal employees and contractors from multiple agencies working in densely populated office space. Cubicles are in close proximity to each other; work processes require frequent, close interactions with coworkers; and the servicing of most requests requires access to over 60 million paper records that are (1) stored on-site and (2) unable to be accessed remotely.
On June 24th, the NPRC entered into Phase One of a gradual reopening. In Phase One, the NPRC continued to service the emergency requests described above and expanded its service to include time-sensitive requests from veterans for records needed to secure VA home loan guarantees and employment opportunities. The NPRC also resumed servicing routine requests from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for the temporary loan of original records needed by the VA to adjudicate veterans’ benefit claims. These expanded services began on August 3, 2020.
To ensure the safety of its workforce, social distancing measures have been instituted which limit its operating capacity to less than twenty percent of its normal staffing level. Despite the low staffing levels and social distancing measures, its operations have been disrupted on multiple occasions due to exposures of staff and contractors. As the pandemic continues to spread in the local community, additional disruptions are expected and these will contribute to further delays.
Most records needed to respond to requests are in paper format and are accessible only by staff working on-site. However, modern service records [generally veterans who separated after Calendar Year 2000] are available in electronic format. NPRC has deployed new digital delivery functionality to enable some of these requests to be serviced by its staff from remote locations. To be eligible for this service it is imperative that requesters provide an email address with their request. If you provide an email address and your request involves records available in electronic format, our staff will obtain the records and provide you with credentials that will enable you to download the requested records from a secure server. This service is available only when (1) the responsive records are available in digital format, and (2) requesters provide an email address with their request.
In many instances, records that are available in electronic formats may also be accessed directly by veterans, without involvement from NPRC, through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) eBenefits application at https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/homepage or the Department of Defense milConnect application at https://milconnect.dmdc.osd.mil/milconnect/. Modern military medical records may be accessed through the VA’s Blue Button application at https://www.va.gov/health-care/get-medical-records/. For more information regarding the online availability of VA and military records, please visit https://www.va.gov/records/.
We regret we are unable to provide a more optimistic forecast for the resumption of normal service levels. We hope the above on-line resources are helpful and greatly appreciate your patience during these unprecedented times.
More information about the National Archives' response to coronavirus can be found at archives.gov/coronavirus .