Secretary Testifies Agency Running Out of Money, Claim Appeals Processing “Suspended.”
The distressing news for millions of our nation’s disabled Veterans is official: If the partial government shutdown continues, then the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will run out of money and will be unable to pay any type of benefit to Veterans and their families on November 1.
Bergmann & Moore brings you this important information impacting Veterans’ disability benefits after our staff attended a Congressional hearing yesterday.
One piece of important news for Veterans is that all VA medical facilities (medical centers, clinics, and Vet Centers) remain open.
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki confirmed the ominous news when he informed Congress that, “As a result of the exhaustion of available funding, VA will not be able to pay the on average $6.25 billion in monthly compensation, pension, education, and vocational rehabilitation benefits to over four million Veterans, Service Members, and Survivors” on November 1.
The Secretary’s warning came at yesterday’s hearing held by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. You can watch Secretary Shinseki’s testimony before Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) and Ranking Member Mike Michaud (D-ME).
The Secretary also told Congress, “nearly 5,600 Veterans a day will not receive a disability decision on their claims,” compared to the time period before VA furloughed 7,800 claims processing staff earlier this week.
Claim Appeal Processing “Suspended”
At the October 9 hearing, Secretary Shinseki also informed Congress that:
“… the processing of appeals will be suspended once funding is exhausted as of October 7th. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals (the Board) estimates that FY 2013 funds for its staff will be expended in early November, while funding for VBA’s regional offices and the AMC has already been exhausted. Employees who process appeals at VBA’s 56 Regional Offices and the AMC have already been furloughed, and Board employees will be put into furlough status when remaining funds are expended. Once this funding is exhausted, all but one member of the Board staff will be furloughed. Hearings in Veterans’ appeals are being cancelled each week, and appeals decisions will not be issued, leading to longer wait times for Veterans.”
Extensive News Coverage
The government shutdown has prompted a flurry of coverage about service members, Veterans, and families. Here is a sample of the hundreds of news articles:
- Steve Vogel at The Washington Post published a detailed article, reporting that, “Pension payments will also stop for almost 315,000 low-income Veterans, Shinseki said.”
- Bob Brewin at NextGov wrote this key passage: “Asked by House VA Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) if VA could have better prepared for a shutdown, Shinseki said, ‘I did not think this could happen….I did not think you would allow this to happen.’”
- NBC News posted a poignant video of the Senate Chaplain Barry Black, a retired Navy Rear Admiral, offering a prayer to end the government shutdown, lamenting, “enough is enough.”
- The full two-hour Congressional hearing about the impact of the partial shutdown on VA and Veterans can be viewed via C-SPAN.