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Update #1. Anxiety Among Veterans Increases as Government Shutdown Looms

VA Healthcare Appears Safe, But VA Claims Processing and Payments in Doubt.  

Veterans across our country are worried and wondering just how a government shutdown, which looms as a very real possibility as soon as midnight tonight, may affect them and their families during these tough economic times.

On September 27, 2013 the Washington Post printed news that a shutdown of the government would disrupt all Veterans’ disability benefits payments issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The newspaper reports that the leadership of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs committees were told by the agency that VA will run out of money to make compensation and pension payments if a partial shutdown is drawn out for weeks, according to aides to two members of Congress.

Here is an official September 27, 2013, VA contingency plan memo that describes the impact if portions of the U.S. Federal Government close on Tuesday morning.   According to VA and press reports Veterans seeking VA medical care appear to avoid adverse consequences from the shutdown.

However, among those furloughed from VA would be as many as one-third of 20,000 VA staff members who decide Veterans’ disability compensation and pension benefit claims.  In addition, nearly all VA employees at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals who decide contested claims may be sent home unable to assist our nation’s wounded, injured, and ill Veterans.

A top VA spokesperson was quoted on Cable News Network (CNN). “Those benefits are provided through appropriated mandatory funding, and that funding will run out by late October,” VA spokeswoman Victoria Dillon said in a statement to CNN on September 28, 2013.

“At that point, VA will be unable to make any payments,” Dillon told CNN.  Payments for October 1, 2013, are set to be paid tomorrow.  A long-term government closure may jeopardize payments scheduled for November 1, 2013, based on VA’s statement.

In addition to no payments for already approved claims there is bad news for Veterans already waiting on a VA claim decision.  If VA stopped all claim processing for one month as many as 100,000 Veterans would not get an answer to their new or re-opened VA disability claim and an additional 4,000 Veterans won’t get answers on appealed claims.

Veterans without an approved claim often go without free VA medical care and without monthly payments to provide for food, rent, and other basic life necessities.  This would be especially devastating to our Veterans who are totally disabled, including those with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), or who are unemployable.

Bergmann & Moore will update you if there appears to be any changes in VA’s status.

 

 

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