Veterans and the U.S. Government Shutdown
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.1
Author: Thomas C. Weiss Contact: Disabled World
Published: 2013-10-04 Updated: 2019-02-18
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:
- Recruiting and hiring of veteran job applicants will end
- Vocational rehabilitation and education counseling will be limited
- Interments at VA national cemeteries will be conducted at a modified rate
- The VA secretary's correspondence with veterans and VSO's will be suspended
- No decisions on claims appeals or motions will be issued by the Board of Veterans Appeals
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 government
The 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:
- Privacy Act requests will not be processed
- VA's website will be updated intermittently
- VBA will not continue overtime for claims processors
- Freedom of Information Act queries will not be processed
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.
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