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Is the government shutdown already affecting the Department of Veterans Affairs?

By Jennifer Kendall, jkendall@ktxs.com
Published On: Oct 07 2013 09:42:54 PM CDT
Department of Veterans Affairs
ABILENE, Texas -

The government shutdown is already having some affects on the Department of Veterans Affairs.

One thing that the VA is already dealing with are longer waits to process veteran’s claims. For about the last six months, VA offices have been working mandatory overtime to bring down their backlogs. Since the shutdown, overtime was halted and the backlog has increased. That means veterans may have to wait up to two years for their claims to be processed.

What about compensation and disability benefits?

The VA thought they planned ahead for tough financial times by setting money aside to keep disability and compensation checks coming, but if the shutdown continues a few more weeks, the VA could run out of money and those checks would cease.

"There's a lot of veterans out there that if they lose, you know, one month without their check, they're going to be homeless," said Vietnam Veteran and Taylor County Veterans Service Officer Jimmy DeFoor.

Veteran’s hospitals, clinics and health services will remain open during the shutdown.

"We don't know what Washington's going to do. Will it go on? Will it get resolved tomorrow? We don't know. We the citizens out here don't have a clue." said  DeFoor.

Clarence Hart served in the Army Reserve during Desert Storm. Hart relies on his disability check to make ends meet, but he's a little more optimistic about the effects of the shutdown than DeFoor.

"They'll figure it out eventually. If the congressmen were having their paychecks affected I think it would get settled a lot more quickly than it is," said Hart. 

Hart said no matter what happens in the next few weeks, we need to help our veterans.

"They gave willingly and so did their families. All gave some, some gave all," said Hart.