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 August 25, 2014

News: U.S. sends second carrier to Asia amid tensions with China - The Navy is sending a second aircraft carrier strike group to the Asia Pacific region amid new tensions with China over a dangerous aerial encounter between a Chinese interceptor and a Navy P-8 surveillance aircraft. SpaceX rocket explodes during test flight - A SpaceX rocket...
 
 

News Briefs August 25, 2014

China says U.S. plane intercept was professional China’s Defense Ministry has rejected U.S. accusations that a Chinese fighter jet conducted a dangerous intercept of a U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft off the coast of China in international airspace. The ministry issued a statement Aug. 23 attributed to spokesman Yang Yujun calling the U.S. accusations groundless. It...
 
 

Ukraine plans $3 billion boost to defense spending

KIEV, Ukraine – Ukraine’s president announced plans Aug. 24 to boost his country’s defense spending by an estimated 50 percent as government forces seek to overpower pro-Russian separatists in the east. President Petro Poroshenko pledged to spend an extra 40 billion hryvnia ($3 billion) by 2017 during a speech marking Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet...
 

 

NASA awards research facilities, engineering support services contract

NASA has awarded a contract for research facilities and engineering support services to InuTeq, LLC of Greenbelt, Maryland, in support of the Mission Information and Test Systems Directorate at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif. This cost-plus-award-fee contract covers a one-year base period beginning Nov. 1, 2014 and four one-year options, and is valued...
 
 

Navy Awards General Dynamics contract for LCS planning yard services

The U.S. Navy awarded General Dynamics Bath Iron Works a $100 million contract to provide planning yard services for the Littoral Combat Ship program. General Dynamics Bath Iron Works is a business unit of General Dynamics. Bath Iron Works, as the LCS Planning Yard, will provide maintenance and modernization support for all Navy LCS 1...
 
 
boeing-boc

Boeing, BOC Aviation announce order for 82 airplanes

  Boeing announced Aug. 25 an order by BOC Aviation for 50 737 MAX 8s, 30 Next-Generation 737-800s and two 777-300ERs (Extended Range). The order, valued at $8.8 billion at list prices, is the largest in BOC Aviation’...
 




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>