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Brief Summary of Effects of Government Shutdown on VA Benefits

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The continuing government shutdown has a compounding effect which is extending not only through the federal government itself, but into the ranks of those who depend on government services, especially among these veterans and current military service members. Despite recent attention on the VA backlog and other issues, the VA has not been hit as hard as other government departments – still, there are some significant issues to be considered moving forward. The Department of Veterans Affairs employs 332,025 men and women, and of these, 14,224 have been furloughed. The reason for the limited, although still large, number of furloughed employees is because the VA is funded through a unique system of multi-year appropriations. Due to this system of appropriations many VA services are continuing uninterrupted. However, the VA cautions that although they do not anticipate many interruptions in service, if the shutdown continues after late October, some appropriations will run out and as a result programs will be shut down and employees furloughed. The motivation to resolve the government shutdown can hardly be any higher than it already is, but the threat of losing critical veteran’s services in the ever closer future is one that cannot be ignored.

For those currently using benefits like the GI Bill or receiving disability, payments should continue as scheduled through late October. New claims or appeals will not be processed, and many outreach and contact services will not be available. The VA website will still be updated, although with less frequency than normal. If the shutdown continues after late October, all services will continue until funding is exhausted, which should be at the end of the month. It seems doubtful that a shutdown would last so long given the strong impetus to resolve this issue, but understanding the possibility of a loss of VA benefits should be considered.

Although not a VA benefit, it should also be noted that TA will not be available during the shutdown – while certain aspects of the military are protected, the shutdown has critically impacted the military, as any service member by now should realize.

More information on currently affected government departments can be found at:
http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2013/09/politics/government-shutdown-impact/

And a VA “Field Guide” to the shutdown at:
http://www.va.gov/opa/docs/Field_Guide_20130927.pdf

 

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