Burlington's Director of Veteran Services Robert Hogan told Patch this week that his office has received information on how the government shut-down is now affected veteran services.
Over the last week, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) has been relying on carryover funding to continue activities during the lapse in appropriations, a release from Hogan states. However, at the close of business Monday, October 7 all of VBA’s carryover funding [was] exhausted.
"Starting Tuesday, October 8, over 7,000 VBA employees will be put into furlough status, consistent with VA’s contingency plan, the release explains. Because of these furloughs, a number of services will be suspended, including: the Education Call Center; personal interviews and hearings at regional offices; educational and vocational counseling; outreach activities and programs, including those conducted at military facilities; and VetSuccess on Campus. The shutdown of public access to VBA facilities also affects Veterans Service Organizations with office space in VBA facilities, as public access to these VSOs is also suspended.
Hogan said that consistent with applicable law, the VA has identified functions and services that will continue during the lapse in appropriations.
"The claims processing actions necessary to the payment of compensation, pension, education, and vocational rehabilitation and employment benefits will continue until VA’s remaining mandatory funds for these programs are exhausted, which is projected to happen in late October."
processors will be on duty during their normal work day only. There will be no further overtime during the furlough.
VBA can continue to employ staff in its compensation and pension Call Centers. Individual Veterans can still initiate claims or check on the status of a claim by dialing 1-800-827-1000, the release states.
"In addition, please note that VBA’s home loan guaranty and life insurance programs will continue operation during the appropriations lapse," the notice states. "However, Veterans seeking approval of VA home loans may be impacted, as access to Internal Revenue Service data used by private-sector lenders to verify income may not be available."
Also, during this time of political and financial uncertainty, there will be limits on how much information the Veterans Benefits Administration will be able to provide to Congress.
"Given the staff reduction and in order to focus limited resources on providing essential services to Veterans and their families, VBA will be unable to respond to congressional inquiries at both VBA Headquarters and regional offices," the release states. "Congressional inquiries include responding to constituent and legislative questions from Congressional members and their staffs. VBA will resume suspended public contact activities, including accepting and responding to congressional inquiries, as soon as possible following enactment of appropriations."
Hogan told Patch that for now the compensation benefits will probably not be directly affected but there could be some "collateral problems," including when veterans attempt to apply for a home loan.
"They could have issues getting information from the IRS to get a VA home loan," he said.
Hogan also said that it may take longer for some veterans to get their normal compensation.
Bigger problems could come if the situation in Washington is not resolved and the government begins to default on its loans. According to the New York Times piece the debit ceiling limit could be reached as early as Oct. 17 if actions are not taken to avoid it. If that happens it is possible the U.S. could start to default on loans in the days ahead.
"I would hope that we wouldn’t get close to that," Hogan said. "It might affect the ability of some vets to get non-service connections pensions or for surviving spouses to get pension payouts. There are a lot of things we aren’t seeing that will hit us in the face."