Congress and VA Secretary Discuss Ideas to Mitigate Impact of Government Shutdowns

In the past few years the topic of government shutdowns has triggered fears throughout the veteran community about interruptions in compensation and other benefits.  One idea that was suggested is passing a law to provide the VA with advanced funding.  The Veterans Health Administration already receives advanced funding to maintain medical treatment for veterans in the event of a government shutdown; but, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) – the division of VA that manages compensation, pension, education, and other programs – does not receive advanced funding.

In the past, when Secretary Shinseki was asked about the idea of providing advanced funding for the VBA, he indicated that more thought needed to be given to the idea.  On Wednesday, Secretary Shinseki discussed some detailed problems that VA would need to overcome for advanced funding to be useful. The Secretary told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee that advanced funding probably would not work for other programs like advanced funding has worked for the medical programs. “In the case of veterans benefits, we can’t process a claim within our own confines,” he said.

To process a claim, we have to go to Social Security to validate other disabilities, go to the IRS to validate . . . threshold income requirements.  We deal with [the Dept. of Defense].  We deal with the Dept. of Education [for] the GI Bill, the Department of Labor on employability issues.

“The best way for us to be meeting our full mission would be to have a budget for the federal government every year.  That would make all of our work much easier,” he said.

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