KILLEEN, TX — A backlog of vital records has become a burden for thousands of families in Texas.
“All of the government agencies, including the life insurance, will not do anything without the death certificate so basically you’re in limbo,” said Sheila Spence, who lost her husband Rickey in January.
The Spence family’s world changed when Rickey was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. After a six month battle, he passed away in January.
“Even though you lose your loved one, it doesn’t stop there. The bills keep rolling in, and the process keeps going, and the world keeps spinning,” said Spence.
They spent their life savings to pay for medical expenses. They waited more than a month for the death certificate to be issued.
“Alongside grief, you’re just so upset you just can’t understand, all I need is this one piece of paper to do everything that I need to do, and I can’t get that piece of paper,” said Spence.
The Spence family isn’t alone.
“Thousands of requests for vital records are received each week and they are processed in the order they are received,” said Lara Anton, from the Texas Department of State Health Services.
As of March 22, there were 60,873 requests waiting to be processed. This includes birth certificates, death certificates, amendments to birth certificates, amendments to death certificates and verification letters for marriages and divorces.
Aside from birth and death certificates, the agency also issues amendments to those documents, as well as verification letters of marriages and divorces.
The agency has experienced a 42 percent increase in the total volume of requests for services in the last five years. The total volume in 2012 was 1.5 million requests. The total climbed to 2.1 million in 2017.
The Texas Department of State Health Services is asking lawmakers to provide $3.1 million to help maintain and distribute vital records. The agency is asking for at least 17 employees to solely focus on alleviating the backlog.
There is a GoFundMe set up for the Spence family.