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Update #3. Government Shutdown Hits Our Veterans

Situation is “Unacceptable,” says attorney Glenn Bergmann. 

A flood of news reports indicate the disability claims backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is worsening due to the partial government closure, now in its eighth day and showing no signs of ending any time soon.

Bergmann & Moore quoted by Military.com

Glenn Bergmann, a former VA lawyer and a partner at Bergmann & Moore, told Military.com, “More than 250,000 veterans with claim appeals have already waited an average of four years for VA to decide their appealed claim, and it is unacceptable that our veterans will be forced to wait even longer” due to the partial government closure.

VA Overtime Stops

As soon as the shutdown began, a top VA official confirmed the ominous news:  Tommy Sowers, VA’s Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs VA, tweeted:  B/c of #shutdown, @VAVetBenefits overtime ends today. After decreasing backlog 30%, we project it will start increasing.

If the number of new claims filed by Veterans remains constant, and if the number of claims completed by VA falls, then VA’s backlog will grow.  First-time claims will still be processed but at a substantially slower rate because VA has stopped paying overtime.

VBA Furloughs 7,000 from Regional Offices

The situation at VBA sharply deteriorated on Tuesday, October 8, 2013, from no overtime to mass furloughs impacting about one-third of VBA staff.  According to Army Times, “Veterans regional offices will be closed and nobody will answer their phones beginning Tuesday morning as the government shutdown forces furloughs of 7,000 employees of the Veterans Benefits Administration,” the agency within VA that decides Veterans’ disability claims.  VA’s official announcement was posted on the agency’s website on the evening of October 7, 2013.

Watch This Blog: More VA Changes Expected

USA Today reports that Veterans who already face a lengthy backlog of claims now risk not getting their disability and pension benefits at all next month if the shutdown lasts more than a few weeks.  VA says the agency has enough money to process veterans’ claims for pensions, compensation, education and vocational rehabilitation programs through late October, but a prolonged shutdown would suspend those programs once the money runs out.

Bergmann & Moore will post updates on VA’s status, especially changes impacting the processing of veterans disability claims, especially appealed claims.

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