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Veterans and the U.S. Government Shutdown

  • Published: 2013-10-04 (Revised/Updated 2013-10-11) : Author: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: Veterans Affairs has warned funding for benefits will run out by late October if the Federal Government does not reach an agreement on the shutdown.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has warned that funding for veterans benefits will run out by late October if the Federal Government does not reach an agreement on the shutdown. If this point is reached, the VA will find itself unable to make any payments to veterans, many of whom have forms of disabilities are rely on these payments to live. Even though claims processors at the Veterans Benefits Administration would continue to work during a shutdown, funding for any benefits that may be awarded to this nation's veterans would dry up quickly, according to the VA.

American Legion National Commander Daniel Dellinger stated, "Congress has an obligation to put veterans ahead of politics. The fact that funding for VA benefits could disappear in a month ought to be incentive enough for our elected leaders to achieve a solution." The VA states the Administration believes a lapse in appropriations should not happen.

According to the VA's, 'Veterans Field Guide to Government Shutdown,' additional services would be impacted by a lapse in appropriations to include the following:

Mr. Dellinger of the American Legion stated, "Our federal government must never put veterans in this kind of position. It is imperative that Congress understands that The American Legion strongly objects to the cessation of any VA benefits or services that put our country's veterans and loved ones at risk." The U.S. House of Representatives has; however, adopted the, 'Honoring Our Promise to America's Veterans Act,' by a vote of 259-157 on October 3rd.

Chart showing services affecting veterans shutdown by the governmentAbout This Image: Chart showing services affecting veterans shutdown by the governmentThe joint resolution is designed to guarantee the continuation of veterans benefits payments by extending certain parts of VA funding in relation to a continuing government shutdown and the potential for a government budget default. The funding resolution provides approximately $6 billion less for benefits than the House had already approved this summer during the passage of its version of VA's full-year appropriations bill for fiscal 2014, making the House appear less than trustworthy. According to the Military Times, the Senate has no plans at all to take up the bill and the White House has warned that President Obama will veto it.

The VA has released a field guide to inform veterans about the services that will and will not be affected by the shutdown of the government. The guide includes a list of contact phone numbers for VA services that remain active, as well as ones that are suspended. VA call centers and hotlines will stop functioning during the shutdown. VA medical facilities will continue to be fully operational, along with military sexual trauma counseling, insurance processing, VET Centers, and home loan processing.

The processing of claims and payments in the compensation, pension, vocational rehabilitation and education programs are anticipated to continue through late October. Unfortunately, in the event of a prolonged shutdown, claims processing and payments in these programs would be suspended after funding becomes exhausted. Additional effects on veterans related to the shutdown include:

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) the overtime put in by claims processors over the past six months has helped to reduce the backlog by around 190,000 claims. Due to the government shutdown, the VA has stated the progress for veterans and their family members is at risk without immediate action by Congress to make fiscal year 2014 funding available to pass a continuing resolution to re-open the government. Mr. Dellinger said if the VA is forced to cancel overtime for claims processors, "hard-fought progress in the battle to reduce the backlog of undecided benefits claims will be deliberately forfeited. Years of hard work and dedication have finally achieved a reduction in the backlog."

The withdrawal of the VA's commitment to put in overtime to solve the issue presents the rebuilding of the veterans claims backlog and leave thousands of veterans and their family members in limbo. Veterans and their family members are not responsible for bickering among politicians and should not be victimized by it. VA claims processors have been working at least 20 hours of overtime each month and were scheduled to continue the workload through mid-November. After that point, overtime would become voluntary through the end of the year.

Government Shutdown Will Add To VA's Backlog

Payment of veterans' benefits is one of the most emotionally charged issues affected by the shutdown. Politicians of both parties have scrambled to show their support for vets. While the most serious consequences won't come unless the shutdown lasts for weeks, veterans applying for new benefits may already be suffering because of a backlog of claims.

Government Shutdown FAQ for Veterans

The federal government has officially shut down, leaving just enough resources to cover the essential services of the government. While veterans may be more protected than other constituencies, a government shutdown does not bode well for top priorities within the veterans' community.

Veterans' benefits will be disrupted by extended shutdown

Veterans groups have reacted angrily to news that an extended government shutdown will leave the Department of Veterans Affairs unable to make disability compensation and pension payments to veterans. Losing the payments could have a devastating impact, particularly on severely wounded veterans who are unable to work and depend on VA checks, said Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

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