LIVINGSTON CO., Mich. (WLNS) — A 20th-century problem is an issue still in the 21st century for U.S. veterans.
While the majority of the world functions digitally with laptops, smartphones and tablets, hundreds of thousands of military records are still only on paper.
Paper records make it hard for veterans who need records to get their benefits.
Hard copies of records could be lost in a fire like in 1973 when more than 18 million veterans’ records were lost in a single day.
But most importantly, veterans are stuck waiting for their benefits because paper slows down the process.
“Almost all of the military records were in paper form and something called in microfiche,” said Joshua Parish, the co-founder of VetLife. “Now they’re only two companies in the country right now that service microfiche machines.”
Parish described the injustice veterans face as they struggle to find their records because as they wait, veterans miss out on benefits that they are entitled to.
“It’s imperative that they have their military records to prove if they were injured on active duty service, and without those records the request will be denied because they can’t prove that they were injured,” continued Parish.
To make matters worse, the government program that helps veterans obtain their benefits and records is understaffed.
“We have two federal transition assistant advisors for 575,000 service members,” said Ronnie Cyrus with the Veterans Affairs Administration. “We have one in the U.P. and one in the Lower Peninsula.”
This leaves thousands of veterans behind.
“If I worked with five clients a day, five days a week 52 weeks a year,” continued Cyrus. “Our TA from the Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula would work with less than one-half of one percent of the veteran population in the state of Michigan.”
Cyrus says to make sure no veterans are left behind we need to digitalize the records. And VetLife said that we can’t stop there as veterans need to be able to access their records on an app.
“So on this app, the veterans, once they have access to their records, they also can scroll down to the community resource page and say okay I’m in this county,” explained Parish. “They click on that county and it automatically it tells you where your community resources are.”
Parish says he will not stop until veterans know they’re not alone in this transition to civilian life.
To learn more about VetLife, or if you are a veteran in need of resources, click here.