Carbajal, LaMalfa Reintroduce Bipartisan Veterans’ Record Reconstruction Act of 2019
Today, Rep. Salud Carbajal (CA-24) and Rep. Doug LaMalfa (CA-01) reintroduced the bipartisan Veterans’ Record Reconstruction Act of 2019, a bill that finally gives veterans forced to reconstruct their records a formal pathway to access their awards and benefits.
Over 40 years ago, the fire at the National Personnel Records Center in Overland, Missouri, destroyed up to 18 million Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF), which are often the only acceptable documentation for receiving military benefits. The loss of these files created various challenges for veterans across the country applying for benefits or decorations.
“Our veterans sacrifice so much for this country and it is our duty as lawmakers to ensure they have access to their hard-earned benefits and services,” Rep. Carbajal said. “I’m honored to reintroduce the Veterans’ Record Reconstruction Act, which relieves our nation’s World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam veterans of more than 40 years of uncertainty and complications, through no fault of their own, by creating an established route to access their benefits and awards.”
“After 40 years of uncertainty for veterans from WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, it’s time for the Department of Defense to establish a system to easily determine eligibility for benefits – a simple process that defines what’s acceptable and what’s not,” said Rep. LaMalfa. “Currently, veterans may go years without treatment and rack up expensive medical bills all because the process to determine eligibility for benefits is so convoluted. Many times, it can seem like veterans are sent on a wild goose chase just because there isn’t a clear definition of what type documentation is required or where to get it. The Veterans’ Record Reconstruction Act implements uniform guidelines to simplify this process and make veterans’ lives a little bit easier.”
Joan Patchett, a Santa Barbara resident whose father’s military records were destroyed in the National Personnel Records Center fire, said: “I have been trying to reconstruct [my father’s] path through Europe via the billeting in Ireland, the Normandy Invasion, the Liberation of Paris, and the Battle of the Bulge. There needs to be more involvement from the Federal Government in getting as much information gathered as possible. Thank you for every consideration in passing this bill and helping countless servicemen and their families in finding the answers.”
The Veterans’ Record Reconstruction Act requires the Department of Defense, in consultation with the Department of Veterans Affairs, to develop guidelines regarding the consideration and use of unofficial sources of information in determining benefits and decoration eligibility when a veteran’s service records are incomplete due to damage caused to the records while in the possession of the Department of Defense.