by: Rachel Stockman Updated:ATLANTA —
Local veterans will continue to receive disability benefit checks, at least for the next several weeks, but the future for veterans is unclear if the federal shutdown continues.
“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,” a representative for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said.
“I would be resentful. I would be angry. I would feel like I was taken advantage of political motivation,” said Cary King, who receives disability benefits for cancer after being exposed to Agent Orange during Vietnam.
King checked his account on Tuesday, and reported he received his benefits.
Local experts are also worried about the backlog of benefit claims at the Atlanta regional office. Currently, about 34,000 veterans have claims pending in the Atlanta regional office. The average days pending are 193.
“It has stressed an already stressed organization,” said Drew Early, an attorney who specializes in veterans benefits.
According the shutdown field guide on the Veteran Affairs website in the event of an appropriations lapse, VA call centers and hot lines will close, no decision on claims appeals will be issued, and claims processors will no long receive overtime to deal with the backlog.
“The impact is that we have veterans in need that are not getting the benefits they are entitled to,” Early said.