Shutdown jeopardizes long-term veteran payments

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For 15 years, retired Sgt. 1st Class Jimmy Lamb served in Vietnam, Egypt and Jordan under the Army motto, “This we’ll defend.”

But lately, the Augusta veteran is feeling ashamed of the nation he once swore to protect.

Because of an ongoing dispute between Congress and President Obama, Lamb is among 4.1 million veterans who will not receive more than $6 billion in disability compensation, pension, education and rehabilitation payments next month if the partial government shutdown continues into late October, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said.

While Augusta’s Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center remains open during the budget impasse, spokesman Pete Scovill said a prolonged shutdown will effect all veterans, including the 66,000 living in the 13 Georgia and South Carolina counties in the surrounding metropolitan area.

“It is not fair how the American people and its heroes are being treated,” Lamb said Monday as he and his brother-in-law, Danny Bishop, attended appointments at the Norwood Medical Center in downtown Augusta.

Bishop, a retired Marine Corps first sergeant who served from 1971 to 1995 in various Middle Eastern conflicts, receives 30 percent disability for a heart condition that landed him in a wheelchair.

Lamb, who served from 1969 to 1984, suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome, but only receives pension payments.

The two said they barely have enough to pay for health and living expenses.

“That’s going to be starvation,” Lamb said of losing pension and disability benefits.

Speaking before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs last week, Shinseki said so far the government shutdown has slowed disability claims production by an average of 1,400 cases per day and as a result, stalled the department’s efforts to reduce the backlog of claims pending for longer than 125 days.

“In some areas, like health care delivery, there are fewer adverse effects. In others, such as reducing the claims backlog, we have already seen a negative impact,” Shinseki said.

The House passed legislation that would provide veterans disability, pension and other benefits in the event of a prolonged shutdown. But the White House has urged lawmakers not to take a piecemeal approach to continuing government services.

Shinseki agreed, saying it’s not the best solution for veterans, noting that even if the VA were fully funded, some services to veterans would suffer.

Veterans groups have largely avoided taking sides in the battle.

Rosemary Forrest, a spokeswoman for the Augusta Warrior Project, which serves veterans locally and nationally, said Monday the government shutdown has not had a significant impact on east central Georgia yet, nor have discussions begun on the toll it may take in the future.

Lamb and Bishop said they hope America’s leaders figure out a way to reopen the federal government, primarily for the younger generations coming up behind them.

“We will survive no matter what happens,” Bishop said.


Veteran services that will be impacted by a lapse in appropriations

  • Veterans Benefits Administration’s regional public contact services will not be available
  • Veterans Benefits Administration’s processing of appeals and remands will be suspended
  • Freedom of Information and Privacy act requests will not be processed
  • Recruiting and hiring of Veteran job applicants will cease with the exception of the Veterans Health Administration
  • Presidential Memorial certificates will not be processed
  • Interments at National Cemeteries will be conducted on a reduced schedule
  • Military services coordinator operations will be suspended, including overseas
  • VA Secretary correspondence with veterans suspended
  • VetSuccess on Campus suspended
  • Vocational Rehabilitation and Education Counseling will be limited
  • VBA will not be able to continue overtime for claims processors
  • Claims processing and payments in the compensation, pension, education, and vocational rehabilitation programs are anticipated to be suspended when available funding is exhausted in late October

Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

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deestafford 10/14/13 - 02:49 pm
If there is any delay IT IS OBAMA'S FAULT!!!

The House has passed an appropriations bill to fund the VA and the Senate and Obama refuse to deal with it. They want to use veterans as pawns as they tried to do with the WWII veterans they kept from the WWII memorial yet they let ILLEGAL ALIENS have a rally on the mall. That should show any one with a small amount of common sense where Obama's priorities and loyalties lie.

Passing of individual bill by the House and sending them to the Senate is the regular order of business for Congress and not these omnibus catch all bills and these continuing resolutions. CRs are not normal ways of Congress financing the government.

Let's face the truth: Obama and the Senate Democrat leaders don't care about the military and veterans accept for using them as window dressing.

OJP 10/14/13 - 04:16 pm

No. Either open up the government or not. Anything else is - as you say - using people as pawns to score political points.

This is the House GOP's shutdown. They even changed the House rules right before so that only Cantor can call a Senate bill to the floor for a vote if Boehner refuses to do so. They shut it down and made sure that only they can open it back up.

Just call the vote. See whether the House wants to continue with this shutdown.

fedex227 10/14/13 - 04:38 pm
I agree ...

Simply allow a vote in the House and let the majority have their say - what's so wrong with that?

deestafford 10/14/13 - 06:43 pm
Up until a few years ago each of the 12 appropriation bills

sent separately to the Senate and was not in one monstrous omnibus bill. This gave each committee in the Senate an opportunity to analyze its appropriate bill and take action as deemed necessary.

The Republicans ask for three things:

1. Delay the individual mandate for one year as the mandates for employers and others were delayed. This would also give the system time to work out the bugs which are many.

2. Eliminate the 2% tax on the gross sales of all medical devices. There are 18 new taxes in obamacare and this is one of them. The impact of this 2% tax would be some medical device companies closing and some moving overseas. A further impact was the loss of 250,000 jobs.

3. Make the Congress and its staffs fall under the obamacare exchanges as was written in the law by Senator Grassley.

Now which of these three are undesirable and unrealistic?

Another thing that needs to be done is the reigning in of government spending. Under GW Bush the last year of his presidency before the Democrats took control of the House and Senate the deficit was $161B. Obama has run deficits of $1.3T. Now, he's bragging he has cut deficits in half and the low/no information voters don't even understand what he is talking about or what he has done.

welbow 10/14/13 - 07:48 pm
OJP hit the nail right on the

OJP hit the nail right on the head. Given that Boehner and Reid had negotiated a deal months before to keep the budget at current (post-sequester) levels, and Boehner reneged on that deal over the ACA, this is squarely in the House Republicans' court. The Rules Committee change further reinforces that notion. Otherwise, why would they change the rules so that only two people could re-open the government?

The only good thing about this is, being from VA, Cantor's chances of getting re-elected are very slim...

Truth Matters
Truth Matters 10/15/13 - 10:28 am
"Because of an ongoing

"Because of an ongoing dispute between Congress and President Obama..."

The real dispute is between Boehner and the Tea Party of the House. They won 't let him call for a vote and as Welbow @ 7:48 stated, we now know that the House GOP changed the rules to be darn sure the Dems could not avert this shutdown.

You can't have it both ways. If the GOP does not want the shutdown, Boehner should call for the vote to end it. Since he has not done so at the urging of members in both parties we can only conclude that Boehmer and the GOP want the outcome that we are now getting.

Truth Matters
Truth Matters 10/15/13 - 10:36 am
The reason the president,

The reason the president, Demos, and any other rationally thinking lawmakers, should continue to reject opening only certain agencies is because our economy is interdependent. What good does it do to allow one agency to operate but other agencies that may provide it resources is not operating?

Even the Koch brothers get this, thus their letter of late disavowing their involvement in the shutdown (like we don't know any better). If the VA and other public/government entities close down they may stop stocking their restrooms with Koch Industries paper products.

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