Military veterans will lose many of their veterans' benefits in "late October" if the government shutdown persists, according to newly released U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs documents.
The VA has been continuing to make payments to veterans in the days since the Oct. 1 government shutdown, but agency officials say the pool of available money is dwindling.
"Claims processing and payments in the compensation, pension, education and vocational rehabilitation programs are anticipated to continue through late October. However, in the event of a prolonged shutdown, claims processing and payments in these programs would be suspended when available funding is exhausted," said a statement from the agency's public affairs office.
The impasse also threatens to further slow the VA's backlog of overdue claims for benefits from needy veterans.
The News4 I-Team's review of agency work orders shows the backlog is already severe. Nationwide, 418,711 veterans' claims have been pending for longer than three months.
In the Washington, D.C., area, veterans wait an average of almost a year to have the average benefit processed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The backlog has been a source of frustration for local veterans, says Nick McCormick, an Iraq War veteran from D.C. McCormick, a member of a veterans support group called Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said the shutdown threatens to further clog the VA's system. "It makes living your life that much more difficult," McCormick said.
The Department of Veterans Affairs said it will not be able to continue overtime for claims processors, a service recently instituted to reduce claims backlogs, due to the shutdown. Agency personnel reports say almost one-third of the VA's benefits employees are furloughed outright, as of Oct. 1.