Veterans

October 9, 2013

VA secretary warns of shutdown impact on veterans, families

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki painted a dire picture Oct. 9 of the impact of the government shutdown on benefits and services to veterans – from a slowdown in claims reviews to the threat of cancelled compensation checks to more than 5 million beneficiaries if funding isn’t restored soon.

“All the effects … are negative,” Shinseki reported during testimony before the House Veterans Affairs Committee. “It is an impediment to VA’s ability to deliver services and benefits that veterans have earned through their service.”

VA’s health care system continues to function under advance appropriations provided through fiscal 2014. This means all VA medical centers, clinics and other health services remain open for business as usual.

But cancellation of overtime payments when appropriations lapsed at midnight Sept. 30 has had an immediate impact on benefit claims reviews, Shinseki told the panel. This not only has stalled progress made in recent months toward eliminating the claims backlog, but actually increased it by about 2,000 claims, he reported.

“The shutdown directly threatens VA’s ability to eliminate the backlog,” he lamented. “We have lost ground we fought hard to take. Roughly 1,400 veterans a day are not receiving decisions on their disability claims due to the end of overtime.”

If the impasse continues through late October, Shinseki said, claims processing for compensation, pension, education, vocational rehabilitation and employment benefits will be suspended. “Once mandatory funds are depleted at the end of this month, nearly 5,600 veterans a day will not receive a decision on their disability claims,” he said.

Meanwhile, Shinseki warned of more severe consequences in terms programmed compensation benefits, pension payments and educational benefits if funding isn’t approved soon.

“VA will not be able to assure delivery of (Nov. 1) checks to more than 5.18 million beneficiaries,” who collectively are scheduled to receive $6.25 billion in benefits, Shinseki said. This includes payments to more than 3.8 million veterans – some suffering the most severe disabilities — as well as more than 364,000 survivors and more than 1,200 children with birth defects and other conditions related to a parent’s military service.

Pension payments, too, will stop for almost 315,000 veterans and more than 202,000 surviving spouses and dependents if the shutdown continues into late October, he said.

A prolonged shutdown also will stop education benefits and living stipends under GI Bill programs for more than a half-million veterans and service members, he reported.

Shinseki said employee furloughs at VA already are affecting operations that directly support services and benefits for veterans.

Exhausting carryover funds that had sustained the Veterans Benefits Administration through Oct. 8, VA furloughed more than 7,800 VBA employees, he said. That’s on top of almost 2,800 employees from VA’s Office of Information and Technology who were furloughed Oct. 1, Shinseki reported. In both cases, more than half of the furloughed VA employees are veterans themselves, he noted.

Shinseki told Congress that a piecemeal approach to restoring funding isn’t the answer, because VA partners with so many other federal agencies to deliver veterans services.

He noted, for example, his department’s work with the Labor Department to promote veterans jobs programs and with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to end veteran homelessness.

VA has weathered government shutdowns in the past. But during the last one, in 1996, the United States was enjoying a sustained period of relative peace, Shinseki said.

“Today we are in the 13th year of war in Afghanistan, providing care and benefits to veterans of that war and the war in Iraq as well,” he told the committee. “Members of this latest generation of veterans are enrolling in VA at a higher rate than ever before. They, along with the veterans of every preceding generation, will be harmed if the shutdown continues.”

Shinseki urged Congress to resolve the fiscal impasse now, “so that VA and our federal partners on whom we have to rely to do our work can get back to work full-time, fulfilling President Lincoln’s call to care for those who have borne the battle.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines April 21, 2014

News: Former Ranger breaks silence on Pat Tillman death: I may have killed him - Almost 10 years after the friendly fire death of former NFL star turned Army Ranger Pat Tillman, a fellow ranger admits that he may have been the one who fired the fatal shot.   Business: Ship study should favor existing designs -...
 
 

News Briefs April 21, 2014

Navy OKs changes for submariners’ sleep schedules The U.S. Navy has endorsed changes to submarine sailors’ schedules based on research into sleep patterns by a military laboratory in Connecticut. With no sunlight to set day apart from night on a submarine, the Navy for decades has staggered sailors’ working hours on schedules with little resemblance...
 
 

NASA cargo launches to space station aboard SpaceX resupply mission

Nearly 2.5 tons of NASA science investigations and cargo are on the way to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft. The spacecraft launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 3:25 p.m., EDT, April 18. The mission is the company’s third...
 

 

Second series of CASIS-sponsored research payloads launch to ISS

The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space is proud to announce several sponsored research payloads have launched to the International Space Station onboard the Space Exploration Technology Corporation’s Dragon cargo capsule. This marks the second series of investigations headed to the station that are sponsored by CASIS, the nonprofit responsible for managing research...
 
 

Boeing to give California workers $47 million in back pay

PALMDALE, Calif. – Boeing will pay $47 million to hundreds of current and former Southern California employees who are owed back pay and benefits, a union announced April 18. An arbitrator ruled against the aerospace giant in January and laid down guidelines for the payments and interest, but it took months to cull through records...
 
 

NASA selects commercial crew program manager

NASA has selected Kathy Lueders as program manager for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. Lueders, who has served as acting program manager since October 2013, will help keep the nation’s space program on course to launch astronauts from American soil by 2017 aboard spacecraft built by American companies. “This is a particularly critical time for...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>