In the event of a government shutdown, disability payments, pensions, and medical care would continue under the Department of Veterans Affairs, as would other VA-sponsored benefits like education and housing assistance.
The new fiscal year begins Sat., Oct. 1, and as of Wed., Sept. 27, Congress has yet to pass any of its 12 proposed spending bills for the new year. Lawmakers have until midnight Sept. 30 to reach a deal on appropriations bills that fund federal agencies, including the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD). Failure to reach an agreement would result in a government shutdown.
Although a shutdown would likely furlough some of the VA’s nearly 450,000 workers and close VA regional offices, VA Secretary Denis McDonough said veterans would be largely unaffected by the closure.
“In the case of a shutdown, there would be no impact on veteran health care,” said McDonough. “Burials would continue at VA national cemeteries. VA would continue to process and deliver benefits to veterans, including compensation, pension, education, and housing benefits, and the board would continue to process appeals.”
A shutdown would, however, impact many of the VA’s public-facing services, such as career counseling, transition assistance for veterans leaving military service, and grounds maintenance of VA cemeteries. Cases before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) and other courts would also cease in a shutdown.
In the event of a government shutdown, federal agencies identify “essential” jobs, which are exempt from furloughs. Because of the VA’s duty to administer medical care and disability payments, most of the department’s employees fall into this essential category. During the most recent shutdown in 2018, 96% of VA employees continued working, compared to 5% of Department of Education employees, and 50% of Health and Human Services workers.
It is still not fully clear how many VA employees would be deemed essential and continue working in a 2023 government shutdown and how this would affect new claims or claims currently being adjudicated or appealed.
There are still concerns about the effect a closure could have on some of the VA’s processes. A federal report released after a 16-day shutdown in 2013 revealed that “weekly progress in reducing a backlog of veterans’ disability claims” was temporarily stalled. The same report states that certain veteran resources, including the education call center, hotlines, vocational rehabilitation, and educational counseling services were closed.
“We continue to closely monitor this situation … and hope it gets resolved,” McDonough said.
“If you were injured while serving this country and are reading this review, I encourage you to contact Woods and Woods right away. They are always standing ready to assist veterans in need.”
J.B., a Navy veteran in VirginiaGoogle review
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