Madness Monday: Update on John Edwards’ Pension Record

I have been trying to order John Edwards’ pension record for years and years with no luck.

I posted about this in March and didn’t hear anything since then.

I decided to get aggressive and made some phone calls.  I’m finally figuring out that it is better to speak directly to people instead of sending an email.  I waited on hold to the National Archives for about 20 minutes, after the recording assured me every thirty seconds that the wait was 1 minute and 8 seconds.    Hmm.  Not sure who recorded that message.

I finally got through and then to my dismay was told that I needed to speak to someone else entirely.  Thankfully, it was a quick transfer and the next person picked the phone up immediately.  I don’t think I could have handled another wait on the phone. Especially since my kids seem to think that this is the time to make messes, loud noises, need immediate attention, or fight with each other. 🙂

The woman I spoke with was very helpful.  She explained to me the reason finding my ancestor’s pension record was so difficult.  He died in 1931 and the records were closed out in 1929.  That means that they definitely have everything from 1929 and before,but it gets tricky beyond that.  The VA had the records (and could possibly still have the records).  The problem is that the Civil War records weren’t put in a separate section to themselves.  They are mixed with other pensions (including WWI).  As they find these older records, they pile them up and send them to the National Archives.  But only as they find them.  They haven’t gone through them all specifically to pull the Civil War records out.  That means that my ancestor’s pension file could be in either place.

The reason I’ve had so much trouble in the past, is that the automated ordering system at the Archives immediately kicks a message back to me saying that they don’t have records for the date I’m searching.  I called the VA and they also told me the same thing. There is obviously some miscommunication between them.  I think that it would be wonderful if the VA would take the time to go through the files and forward all of the Civil War pensions to the NARA once and for all.  I don’t when this will happen.  I know that I’m not the only one that has had this problem though.

Anyway, back to my story.  The woman gave me the number to their resident pension expert and told me that he should be able to go and see if the record is there.  If not, he could walk me through the process of obtaining the record from the VA.

After a few days of phone tag, I emailed my ancestor’s information to him and he went and searched for it.  I now know that John Edwards’ pension is NOT at the National Archives.

Here is what he told me:

The way to access the file that you are requesting is via the Department of Veteran Affairs.  We recognize that we should have these files in the National Archives and we are working with the Department of Veteran Affairs to have them transferred to us.  You need to write a letter to the VA Freedom of Information Officer.  State that you are requesting access to the pension file under the Freedom of Information Act.  You must state your willingness to pay applicable fees or provide a justification to support a fee waiver.

The address to the VA FOIA/Privacy Act Officer is:

Department of Veteran Affairs

Veterans Benefits Administration (20M33)

810 Vermont Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20420

So, I now have another letter to write.

I’m hoping that it doesn’t take months upon months to hear back from the VA.  I guess I shouldn’t be too impatient though.  I’ve been waiting almost 8 years, what’s another 6 months?  I think that I may give them my parents’ address as a backup in case they take too long in getting back with me.  We will be moving next summer and then moving again the summer after that. (Gotta love the military!)  I would hate for them to finally send his packet and have it lost in the abyss of undeliverable mail. I just hope that they are able to give me some sort of confirmation, or that there is some way for me to verify that they have received my request and are processing it.  We’ll see.  I WILL get his pension packet someday in the near future….

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