Veterans Take a Hit During Government Shutdown

Veterans Take a Hit During Government Shutdown

CONTACT: Carlisle Williams (212) 982-9699 or press@iava.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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Veterans Take a Hit During Government Shutdown

Barred access to WWII Memorial; hurting progress on VA backlog

NEW YORK (October 2, 2013) – The government shutdown is affecting the nation’s veterans, and the impact will worsen as the shutdown is prolonged, advocates warned Congress today. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) called on Congress to keep the government open to ensure that veterans receive all the care and services they have earned. 

One way the shutdown will have an immediate impact on the veterans community is by slowing progress on the VA disability claims backlog. Responding to pressure from the veterans community, VA has made significant progress reducing the backlog. Yet, much more work remains to help the 436,000 veterans still in the backlog. Because the VA is losing administrative support, claims processing will be slowed and all work processing appeals or new claims will stop.  Additionally, mandatory overtime – a key component of the VA’s major progress on the disability claims – is discontinued during the government shutdown.

IAVA has released an FAQ on how veterans will be affected during the shutdown. The FAQ will be continually updated: iava.org/blog/government-shutdown-faq.

“The men and women who served our country in the military did their jobs, now Congress needs to do its job and keep the government open,” said Paul Rieckhoff, CEO and Founder of IAVA. “The shutdown is having an impact on veterans, and it will only get worse as the shutdown is prolonged. Congress needs to stop playing games at the expense of those who sacrificed the most.“

All VA disability, pension or GI Bill payments for the month of October are already out. VA benefits are protected and should go out during a shutdown. However, the VA recently announced that if the shutdown lasts longer than two to three weeks, the VA might not have enough cash on hand to pay benefits in November. The VA has not given any specifics on what will happen if the shutdown continues for the next few weeks, and they run out of cash on hand. 

Until this morning, even some World War II veterans were barred from visiting the World War II Memorial. This morning the National Park Service responded to public pressure and allowed access to the Memorial to Honor Flight veterans.

VA health care is protected – in large part because of the efforts of IAVA and other Veterans Services Organizations to secure advanced appropriations in 2009. This allows the VA health care to plan ahead and ensures that VA health care is funded for an additional year beyond the government shutdown. All VA medical appointment and prescription drug phone lines will be active during the shutdown.  

The Veterans Crisis Line remains open. Veterans, or those concerned about veterans, can call 800-273-8255 and press 1 to be directly connected to qualified responders or send a text message to 838255.

As Congress remains gridlocked and plays games with the budget, there remains a great deal of uncertainty for veterans. IAVA’s case managers are trained to help veterans navigate all types of transition issues. If the government shutdown affects a veteran’s benefits, livelihood or well-being, he or she can contact IAVA at 855-91-RAPID (72743). IAVA can connect them to resources and help minimize the disruption to their life.

Note to media: Please contact press@iava.org or call 212-982-9699 if you would like to schedule an interview with a veteran to discuss the shutdown.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the nation’s first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 270,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. IAVA recently received the highest rating – four-stars – from Charity Navigator, America’s largest charity evaluator. 

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