Temporary Reduction in Onsite Operations at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis
Community spread of COVID-19 in the St. Louis area has worsened, and local public health metrics in St. Louis County no longer meet NARA’s standards for opening its buildings. To protect our staff and visitors from the transmission of COVID-19, the National Personnel Records Center’s Military Personnel Records facility has temporarily scaled back on-site operations to less than ten percent of its normal operating capacity. We will continue to respond to emergency requests, but we are closed to the public and unable to service most records requests. This change in operating status became effective on November 7th.
We will maintain a small on-site staff who will respond only to emergency requests, such as those involving requests to support burial honors for deceased veterans; life-threatening medical emergencies; requests from homeless shelters, seeking to gain admittance of a homeless veteran; and comparable emergencies. If you have such an emergency, you must complete Standard Form 180, Request Pertaining to Military Records, and fax a signed copy to (314) 801-0764.
Unfortunately, we will not have sufficient on-site capacity to respond to many other important requests, including requests related to other veterans benefits.
Why are we unable to service other requests?
NPRC employs many veterans and takes seriously its responsibility to make these important records available. The biggest obstacle to returning NPRC’s performance to its pre-pandemic level lies in the reality that the majority of NPRC’s holdings and reference activity involve paper records that can be accessed only by on-site staff. While modern military service records are maintained electronically, most requests submitted to NPRC involve veterans who separated from the military many years ago and records that are available only in paper or microfilm formats, which require on-site access.
The most significant obstacles to increasing on-site staffing levels lie in community spread of the virus and the challenge of social distancing. We have modified our work processes to incorporate social distancing requirements. However, even with greatly reduced levels of on-site staffing, on numerous occasions we have had to abruptly stop our work for deep cleaning due to exposures of staff.
For how long will NPRC be operating at this reduced level of capacity?
The NPRC will be operating at various degrees of reduced on-site capacity until the public health emergency has ended.
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. It employs nearly 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 stored on-site and unable to be accessed remotely.
Due to the pandemic, NPRC was “Closed - Except for Emergencies” from March 23 through June 23, 2020. During this time a limited number of 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.
On June 24, 2020, the NPRC entered into Phase One of a gradual reopening. To ensure the safety of its workforce, social distancing measures were instituted which limited its operating capacity to only ten percent of its normal staffing level. On October 5, 2020, the NPRC entered into Phase Two of reopening and soon thereafter increased its on-site staffing level to twenty percent of its normal capacity. Despite these low on-site staffing levels, its operations were disrupted on numerous occasions due to on-site exposures of staff. On November 7, 2020, NPRC regressed back to a “Closed - Except for Emergencies” operating status when local public health metrics worsened and no longer met NARA’s standards for remaining open.
Yes, modern service records, generally for 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 submit a request using our online application, eVetRecs, and 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 .