10-11-13

Budget Battle Limits VA Services

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced this week that the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) had been relying on carryover funding to continue activities during the lapse in appropriations. These funds have now been exhausted, and therefore over 7,000 VBA employees will be put into furlough status and a number of services will be suspended, including: the Education Call Center; personal interviews and hearings at regional offices; educational and vocational counseling; outreach activities and programs, including those conducted at military facilities; and VetSuccess on Campus.

In addition, more than 2,700 Office of Information Technology (OIT) employees will be furloughed. All development of VA software will cease, including work on the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS), the system critically important to reducing the backlog of disability claims. Access to VBA facilities for Veterans Service Organizations (VSO) with office space is suspended.

VA claims processing will continue until the VA’s remaining mandatory funds for these programs are exhausted, which is projected to happen in late October. VBA can continue to employ staff in its compensation and pension call centers. Individual veterans can still initiate claims or check on the status of a claim by dialing 1-800-827-1000.

VBA’s home loan guaranty and life insurance programs will continue operation during the appropriations lapse. However, Veterans seeking approval of VA home loans may be impacted, as access to Internal Revenue Service data used by private-sector lenders to verify income may not be available. For more information on the reduction of VA activities due to the lack of appropriations go to: http://www.va.gov/opa/appropriations_lapse_plan.asp