Veterans’ disability payments threatened by shutdown
The first government shutdown in 17 years has resulted in furloughs for about 800,000 federal workers across nearly every agency imaginable.
But for the nation's 21 million veterans, there's good and bad news as Republicans and Democrats in Congress attempt to gauge who will blink first.
Thanks to advance appropriations of $54 billion for the Veterans Health Administration, 1,700 VA hospitals, clinics and nursing homes will continue to treat military vets without disruption through next fall.
"One of the things we're grateful of is some things are still continuing despite the gridlock in Congress," said state Rep. Mark Takai, a Democrat who chairs the Veterans, Military, & International Affairs, & Culture and the Arts Committee.
However, if the government shutdown lasts toward the end of October, then disability payments for veterans could be threatened. A posting on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website states the following:
"VA has funds available to ensure claims processing and payments in the compensation, pension, education, and vocational rehabilitation programs will continue through late October. However, in the event of a prolonged shutdown, claims processing and payments in these programs will be suspended when funds are exhausted."
For U.S. Army veteran Patrick Collins, 30, the government shutdown places his first disability payment of $810 per month in limbo. Collins' application was approved by the VA just three days before the impasse in Congress began.
"I'm not working at the moment," Collins told KITV4. "That would be a really, really tough situation for me. I don't really have any income coming in."
Although Takai admits there are concerns with President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, he doesn't believe Republicans should use the federal budget as a negotiating tool.
"I would hope that once the budget gets resolved that there will be some discussion and debate on that particular measure," he said. "But, it's not good politics, not good business (and) it just doesn't make sense to handcuff the entire nation's budget on one piece of legislation."
The VA has set up a veterans' field guide for the government shutdown on its website. The Web page can be found on the "As Seen On" section of KITV.com.
Disability benefits for veterans living on their own range from $129 dollars per month up to $2,800 per month, depending on the severity and type of injury.
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