Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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July 11, 2013

Vital records

Virginia partnership welcomed

— — Many area residents can attest to the frustrations often associated with trying to obtain certified copies of marriage, death, divorce and birth certificates. While obtaining a copy of such a document should be a relatively simple task, many families unfortunately find themselves getting the run around. In some instances, they are required to go from one office to the next, or to make repeated phone calls, in an effort to secure a copy of the necessary document.

This should soon no longer be the case in Virginia thanks to a new partnership announced Tuesday between the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles and the Virginia Department of Health. According to Gov. Bob McDonnell, the DMV will begin issuing birth certificates at its customer service centers starting March 1, 2014. Then, beginning Jan. 1, 2015, the DMV will be authorized to issue certified copies of all death, marriage and divorce records.

The partnership stems from a vital records bill introduced earlier this year in the General  Assembly by Sen. Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg.

“This partnership will make it easier for Virginians to do business with the Commonwealth by streamlining access to vital records,” McDonnell said. “It is a great example of government working better for its citizens.”

In the meantime, customers will still be able to obtain documents from the Virginia Department of Health’s Division of Vital Records office in Richmond, or by ordering online for delivery through the mail. The new partnership will make paper birth certificates from 1912 onward available at all 75 DMV customer service centers throughout the state in 2014.

Both agencies have already laid the groundwork for issuing vital records by joining the multi-state Electronic Verification of Vital Events network, a system developed and implemented by the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information System. Through the network, the DMV can verify a customer’s birth record through databases in 31 states, including Virginia. The transaction conveniently takes place while the customer is at the counter and prevents eligible customers from being turned away only to return another day with a paper record to complete their DMV business.

Having a single location to secure copies of all death, marriage, birth and divorce records is long overdue and welcomed. While we realize that waiting in line at the DMV can still take a while — particularly if you arrive at your local DMV customer service center at a busy time — the new partnership will nevertheless alleviate the frustration of having to travel to multiple offices, or make multiple phone calls, to receive such vital records.

The General Assembly is to be applauded for passing such long overdue, common sense legislation. And the West Virginia Legislature should take note and follow suit.

If Virginia can streamline the process of securing vital records, so can West Virginia. Lawmakers in the Mountain State would be wise to follow Virginia’s lead.

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