What are the impacts of the shutdown so far?

In addition to furloughing over 7,800 employees in Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), Veterans' Affairs has been forced to suspend mandatory overtime for disability claims processors, which has been instrumental in bringing down the veterans disability claims backlog in recent months.

  • Prior to the lapse in appropriations, mandatory overtime was planned to continue through November 16, followed by voluntary overtime through December 31.  Since May 15, VA claims processors have been working a minimum of 20 hours per month of mandatory overtime in conjunction with other initiatives.
  • These efforts have reduced the disability claims backlog approximately 31% since March 2013 - about 418,500 on September 30 down from the peak of 611,000 on March 11 - the lowest level in two years.
  • The backlog increased from 418,500 to 418,700 in the first week of the lapse, as compared to a decrease of in the backlog of approximately 18,000 in the last week prior to the lapse.
  • On Monday, October 7, VBA furloughed over 7,800 employees.  Employees who process benefits will remain on the job.

What will happen if the shutdown continues through October?
Within the next two weeks, VA will exhaust benefits funding, after which claims processing for compensation, pension, education, vocational rehabilitation, and employment benefits will be suspended due to lack of funding. 

What does mean for Veterans?

Over $6 billion in disability compensation, pension and education payments to millions of Veterans will stop.

What VA services will continue during the shutdown?

  • VA hospitals, clinics and other health services will remain open across VA's more than 1,700 sites of care, due to advance appropriations for fiscal year 2014. 
  • Insurance processing and home loan processing will continue.
  • The Veterans Crisis Line, which has made more than 30,000 life-saving rescues, will remain open and available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

How has the shutdown impacted services other federal agencies provide Veterans?

Vocational rehabilitation and education counseling for veterans has been impacted.
The Veterans' Employment and Training Service at the Department of Labor cannot provide additional funding to states to support employment and counseling services for veterans.

Veterans' business support centers are closed.
The Small Business Administration has closed ten Veterans Business Outreach Centers nationwide, as well as 900 Small Business Development Centers and nearly 100 Women's Business Centers that provide technical and development assistance to small businesses. In addition, SBA Administration has closed its Veterans Business Development, Service Disabled Veterans procurement, and all other veteran-specific programs

Homeless veterans will not receive housing vouchers.
While current veterans will retain their housing vouchers, the Department of Housing and Urban Development will not be issuing any new vouchers to homeless vets under the HUD-VASH program.

Key Messages – Shutdown Impact on Veterans

  • The government shutdown could end today if Congress would vote on a clean continuing resolution to fully fund the government, allowing our nation to provide the benefits Veterans have earned and deserve.
  • Some have suggested a piecemeal approach to funding the government – that is the wrong solution for Veterans and our nation. Veterans and their families, like other Americans, use services coordinated across the government, from SBA’s Veterans’ business support centers to Department of Labor’s employment and counseling services.  We need to open our entire government to make Veterans benefits and services whole.
  • Congress knew that VA would be forced to reduce services, negatively impacting Veterans if a government shutdown occurred.
  • As a result of the shutdown, VA was forced to end overtime for claims processors. 
  • By the end of the month, they’ll run out of funding to pay Veterans the benefits they earned.  
  • Our nation’s Veterans have done their job for this country. It’s time for Congress to do theirs and pass a clean continuing resolution to reopen the federal government and fund these benefits.

Impacts:

  • Every generation of Veterans will be harmed if Congress doesn’t act to end the shutdown. 
    • Backlog: As a result of the shutdown, VA was forced to end overtime for claims processors.  Rather than continuing its recent trend, VA’s progress in reducing the disability claims backlog has stalled without the increased productivity gained from overtime for claims processors – overtime that has helped VA significantly reduce the disability claims backlog by more than 190,000 claims over the last six months.
    • The shutdown directly threatens VA’s ability to eliminate the claims backlog – VA has lost ground it fought hard to take.  Today, an average of 1,400 fewer Veterans a day are receiving a decision on their disability compensation claims due to the end of overtime.
    • Furloughs: The Veterans Benefits Administration already had to furlough more than 7,800 of its employees – half of whom are Veterans.  The Office of Information and Technology had to furlough more than 2,750 employees, 56 percent of whom are Veterans, including those who work on VA technology systems such as the paperless claims processing systems – VBMS (Veterans Benefits Management System).   
    • Benefits: If the shutdown does not end in the coming weeks, VA will not be able to pay the November 1 monthly checks due to millions of Veterans -- $6.25 billion in payments on average – including Veterans who are 100% disabled, surviving spouses, and eligible children, orphaned by the death of their military or Veteran parent. Tuition and stipends for hundreds of thousands of Veterans, Servicemembers, and    eligible family members in education programs will stop. 
  • VA will continue to do everything in its power to continue to serve Veterans during the shutdown.  Thankfully, many services will continue, including:
    • VA hospitals, clinics and other health services will remain open across VA’s more than 1,700 sites of care, due to advance appropriations for fiscal year 2014.  This includes all VA inpatient and outpatient care, surgeries, prescriptions, dental treatment, extended care, mental health care, nursing home care, health care services for women Veterans, readjustment counseling services (Vet Centers), and military sexual trauma counseling, to name a few
    • Insurance processing and home loan processing will continue.
    • The Veterans Crisis Line, which has made more than 30,000 life-saving rescues, will remain open and available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
  • Veterans can continue to go to www.va.gov for up-to-date information on what the shutdown means for them.