By Jim Vines
Veterans, who already face a lengthy backlog in getting help, risk not getting their disability and pension benefits at all next month if the federal government shutdown lasts several weeks.
The Department of Veterans Affairs said it has enough money to process veterans' claims for pensions, compensations, education and vocational rehabilitation through late October, but a prolonged shutdown would suspend those programs once the money runs out.
All VA medical facilities and clinics will remain fully operational during the federal shutdown, including VA hospitals. In 2009, Congress passed a law to fund the VA one year in advance. This allows the VA health care system to plan ahead and ensures that VA health care is funded for an additional year beyond the government shutdown.
Also not effected are VA medical appointments, prescription drug phone lines and home loan processing. While veterans' medical care is protected, some call centers and hotlines have already been suspended under this budget impasse between Congress and the White House.
Among the VA services that are temporarily suspended under the shutdown are:
•Call centers and hotlines related to education and consumers affairs.
•The Inspector General Hotline (1-800-488-8244).
•Board of Veterans Appeals will not issue decisions on claims appeals or motions.
•Recruiting and hiring of veteran job applicants will cease, with an exception of the Veterans Health Administration
The shutdown is unfortunate. The backlog of claims that was slowly decreasing will now take a sharp turn increasing. All in all, veterans and their families should feel comfortable for now, however, fall on the side of caution with expenses until Congress decides to take care of the veterans who have sacrificed so much to ensure their jobs.
Speak to you again next week.