News Coverage of the Plight of Texas Veterans
The partial government shutdown is having a profound impact on Veterans in individual states, especially Texas, where things were in disarray even before the closure and are now nothing less than chaotic.
The Austin (Texas) American-Statesman reports the shutdown is unimaginably making things even worse at the Waco Regional Office of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which already has some of the country’s longest wait times for Veterans.
At this embattled office, which serves Central Texas and is one of two offices in the state that process disability claims, 297 employees – about 40 percent of the center’s total workforce – were furloughed, VA officials said.
The office closed its doors on Tuesday and Veterans are now unable to meet with VA employees to discuss the status of their claims or ask for help. Veterans can mail in claims and supporting documents, and certified mail is highly recommended (keep copies of all documents).
The shutdown also resulted in a loss in overtime pay for VA claims processors who were previously credited with reducing the nationwide disability claims backlog by 190,000 claims in the last six months, the Tribune reports.
A similarly troubling story in the the Waco Tribune notes that at the Waco regional office 297 workers will have to take unpaid leaves of absence, or about 40 percent of the 787-person staff, according to Arlington-based VA spokesman Ozzie Garza.
According to WFAA-TV in Dallas-Fort Worth, the shutdown also forced the Dallas-Fort Worth VA National Cemetery to let go of the contractors who mow the grounds, as well as the janitors.
But Larry Williams, a Veteran and assistant director of the cemetery, told WFAA that “our employees have picked up the pace. Everybody’s pitching in. We’ve got a crew of just about all veterans, and every one of them takes pride in what they do and the cemetery itself.”
Meanwhile, 33 Veteran organizations, representing more than 10 million veterans (out of the 22 million living veterans) held a press conference in Washington, DC, demanding an end to the partial government shutdown. You can view the C-SPAN video here.