Monday, September 30, 2013

Confusion and Outrage: What the Government Shutdown Really Means for Veterans



kdvr.com
With the government on the brink of shutting down for who knows how long, America's veterans are trying to make sense of the conflicting and confusing information spewing from inside the Beltway. And the national media isn't helping much. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been sending out painfully mixed messages. Last week, the department announced that under its contingency plan, 95 percent of VA employees would be either fully funded or required to perform excepted functions during a government shutdown. 

VA stated that all payments to veterans would be made. No worries, right? No problem, right? Wrong. Later in the week, VA dropped its “all is well” fa├žade like a hot potato and bluntly acknowledged that if a government shutdown occurs and lasts more than a few weeks, the agency will run out of money for compensation and pension checks to more than 3.6 million of our former warriors.

One would think that VA would post something prominently on its website homepage that helps explain this dire situation. But clicking on VA's home page right now, I see nothing. OK, there it is. I had to dig deep to find this VA guidance page, released Friday. 

The department's reversal on the government shutdown's impact on veterans came only after staff members of the House and Senate veterans affairs committees hounded VA suits for more information. It's a familiar scenario: getting VA to release vital information is like pulling teeth.

Meantime, some national media reports have been blurry and lazy. Some reporters got a copy of an internal VA memo that said a government shutdown could force as many as 62,000 VA employees to take temporary furloughs. And they ran with it. Trouble is, the memo was incorrect. VA officials now say that only about 14,000 employees would be sent home.

Significantly, though, more than half of these 14,000 workers - about 7,200 - will come from the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), which means the shutdown, if it lasts more than a few weeks, will have a profound impact on veterans who rely on this money to survive.

Benefits from VBA are provided through appropriated mandatory funding, and "that funding will run out by late October,” VA spokeswoman Victoria Dillon told CNN. “At that point, VA will be unable to make any payments.”

VA says medical care, prescriptions, and home loan processing will continue during a shutdown. The Veterans Crisis Line and insurance processing departments will also remain operational. 

But the Human Resources Center that helps veterans find jobs will be shuttered, and the Board of Veterans Appeals will not issue any motions. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) queries reportedly won't be processed, and internments at National Cemeteries will be "conducted at a modified rate," according to VA.

The VA will also suspend its Consumer Affairs, Inspector General and Whistleblower Reprisal hotlines.

There are bills floating around Congress right now that would fund VA under a shutdown, including one that is awaiting a floor vote in the House and a committee vote in the Senate. We'll see if these bills advance. 

Meanwhile, as this political mess unfolds, veterans across the country watch and wait. And some pols grow increasingly frustrated. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., told reporters on Friday, "The idea that a veteran should have to wait for his disability check, because some Washington politician is acting like a third-grader and engaged in an ideological stunt, is really insulting."

13 comments:

  1. As a gulf war veteran who recently became very ill with numerous illnesses related to my service in the gulf war I filed my first claim at the VA in August of this year. My temporary disability ran out in early September and I currently have no income. Due to the VA claim backlog I've been told it could be a 2 year wait. Now with the shutdown it will be even longer. I'm 40 yo and have a 4 yr old and 9 yo daughters. There are no grants or programs I can find to assist pre 9/11 veterans. Its putting me in a terrible financial situation. I'm lucky to have my husbands support and private health insurance but I feel for veterans who don't.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your story, and thanks for your service. Please feel free to contact me privately if you like at my email address: jreno@san.rr.com. I wish you the best and hope the wait isn't that long for you. I also hope this shutdown is a very short one, or, better yet, that it doesn't happen at all.

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    2. Yes it does take 2 years for your claim to be processed. I waited that long for mine and when it was done the Waco VARO screwed it up so bad. Now I have to file a Notice of Disagreement and step to the back of the line again because of a rater who could not read the doctors notes.

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    3. Yes, I know, and sometimes longer - especially if there is an appeal. I wish you the best.

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  2. contact your local DAV- they will help you even if you are not a member. check for state and even city emergency benefits.
    also helpful: keep multiple copies of every paper you are given and bring them to every meeting. when someone files a form, ask for a copy. that way, if/when something is lost, you have a copy right there.
    i went through the process, have 100% disability. it's tough, takes a long time and soooo much paper. keep at it, _REALLY_ get the DAV on your side.
    thank you for your service, and best wishes.

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    1. Absolutely true!! Stay strong!!

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  3. I got a 100% temporary rating in 2009 from the VARO in San Diego. It took pushing hard to talk to a person who had my file ,then it was don e in a week. I have used the DAV as my AOR to get my permanent claim. Got my 100% in July of 2013 but it was effective as of Feb 2012. You just have to work the system

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  4. The problem started as early as when irresponsible officials got elected.

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  5. Does anyone remember the rescue of POWs by Capt Hugh Phil Fernandes ?

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  6. I enlisted in USAF in 1977. Left in 2000 with multiple service connected injuries, burned/grafted right leg , 3 crushed vertebrae, 3/4 of stomach removed. Mulitple surgeries. Now, we as disabled 100% vets and families are being subjected to financial terrorism by our own country, after giving heart,: body and soul to defend our country. It is an outrage and a moral shame that our government would further exacerbate our problems by threatening not to pay us. This is the only income I have. I don't even have central heat in my home, because the electrician can't hook it up until I get new wiring costing $2500. He says it is a fire hazard like it is. I cannot afford to go without pay. Electric, water and gas don't wait . This is unbelievable.

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  7. The House of Representatives yesterday submitted a funding appropriations bill for the V.A. and the Senate has refused to bring it to the floor.

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  8. We wrote the Check but who in DC wants to cash it

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  9. VA says medical care, planetjudi.com, prescriptions, and home loan processing will continue during a shutdown.

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