You may recall that a few days before the Government Shutdown, VA Chief of Staff Jose Riojas issued guidance stating that most VA benefits during government shutdown would have normal claim processing and remain unaffected by the budget impasse. One day before the shutdown, however, President Obama explained that “vital services that seniors and veterans, women and children, businesses and our economy depend on would be hamstrung… . Veterans who’ve sacrificed for their country will find their support centers unstaffed.”
Congressman Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, accused the VA of flip-flopping on the impact of the Shutdown.
With respect to staffing Vet Centers, Congressman Miller issued a press release on October 1, 2013:
The potential effects of a government shutdown are grave enough without President Obama adding fuel to the fire with misleading statements about how a shutdown might impact VA. The president’s statements this afternoon are in direct contradiction with the information his own administration is providing to Congress and the public, and it’s disappointing he is now resorting to scare tactics and using veterans in a cynical attempt to score political points. America’s veterans and American taxpayers deserve to hear the truth about what’s at stake in the debate over the continuing resolution. They’re not getting it from President Obama.
VA Benefits During Government Shutdown Seem Slow At Best
Over the course of the Shutdown, the VA has issued increasingly dim reports about the impact. These reports do not square with the initial guidance that was issued. Originally, the VA implied that appeals processing would be reduced, but that it would continue except for BVA decisions.
Last week, the VA spokesman Victoria Dillion said that recent progress made on addressing the backlog would be reversed. “As a result of Congress’ failure to act and prevent a lapse in appropriations, VA will not be able to continue overtime for claims processors – overtime that has helped VA significantly reduce the disability claims backlog by more than 190,000 claims over the last six months.” All mandatory overtime work on reducing the backlog of initial claims ended, and processing appeals have – according to my own anecdotal evidence from two regional offices – all but ground to a halt.
National Public Radio spoke with the American Legion and reported that if the shutdown continues for two or three weeks, then money for disability benefits and GI Bill benefits will run out. So, it appears that the VHA will continue operating for the most part, but the VBA’s administration of benefits – from processing appeals to disbursing money – will be seriously impacted, meaning that veterans who rely on their disability checks to pay rent, grocery bills, and utility bills (with winter approaching) will feel additional stress on top of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which afflicts tens of thousands of veterans.
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While we can’t completely control what happens with VA benefits during the government shutdown, Bosley & Bratch can — and will — advocate for you to get the full veterans benefits to which you are entitled. Please learn more about our legal services for veterans, complete our online case evaluation form or call us at (800) 953-6224. Find out why veterans and their families hire us.