This lobbying began when veterans had to endure the last major US government shutdown in 1995. Back then, the VA was not accepting any new claims, and there were delays in processing benefits checks. The push to pass legislation ultimately proved successful. “We were really united in making that happen,” Mr. Autry says.
Today, the VA “will continue to provide 100 percent of our health-care services to enrolled veterans through VA medical facilities across the country,” according to a VA official who did not wish to be named because the VA’s operational plans are still being finalized. “Veterans’ medical appointments will not be canceled or delayed” in the event of a shutdown, the official adds.
As far as benefits checks go, “We’re taking steps to make sure that at least in the short term, those checks go out,” says the official. April benefits checks have already been sent out. Although there will be a reduced VA staff in the event of a shutdown, most of the VA checks are processed electronically. The reduction in paper checks since 1995 cuts down on the workload required to process them, Autry point out.
The VA will also continue to provide funeral services at national cemeteries, though “some cemeteries may operate on a modified schedule,” according to the VA official.
There will be VA services that may be suspended in the event of a shutdown. There may be no staff on duty to answer consumer inquiries by e-mail, phone, or mail, according to the official. Routine recruiting, hiring, and training will also likely be put on hold, along with fraud investigations.
While the latest round of GI Bill payments have already gone out, there may be some disruption in applications for benefits, particularly those involving rolling admissions to universities, says Autry.