As a part of its record digitization efforts alongside the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) completed digitization of declassified deck logs from the Vietnam War.

Records digitization is a large part of NARA’s strategic modernization goals and its efforts with VA mark a milestone with both agencies. Through the digitization of Blue Water Navy (BWN) veteran records, VA will be able to more easily connect veterans exposed to herbicides during the Vietnam War to disability benefits.

“The team at NARA recognizes the importance of this effort making it easier for BWN veterans to receive the benefits they’ve earned without burdening them with paperwork,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said of the effort. “Since January 1, VA has processed thousands of claims and encourages every veteran, dependent, and surviving spouse who is eligible to file a claim as soon as possible.”

Archivist David Ferriero added, “Through this scanning project, VA contractors digitized declassified Navy and Coast Guard deck logs from 1956-1978 in NARA’s holdings, including the log of the hospital ship USS Sanctuary which I served aboard during the Vietnam conflict.”

The deck logs kept by the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard documented the daily activities of veterans throughout active duty and are sometimes used to decide VA benefit claims. VA provided images of the logs to NARA for digitization. While digitizing Navy deck logs was completed in December last year, VA just finalized Coast Guard records this month.

NARA plans to have all agencies transfer only electronic records to the agency by December 2022. In June, Chief Records Officer Laurence Brewer commented that agencies are making progress but expressed concern about the lack of financial and human resources to fuel the initiative.

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Katie Malone
Katie Malone
Katie Malone is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.