Congress successfully avoided a government shutdown on October 1 by passing a 45-day stopgap bill to provide temporary funding for the government. However, lawmakers need to collaborate on a funding plan before it expires. But what are the consequences if they fail to do so by the November 17 deadline?
The country encountered this dilemma at the close of 2018 when the government underwent a 34-day shutdown. If this were to happen again, the nation could experience delays or complete loss in non-essential federal services and compensation during such shutdowns. Millions of federal employees, including our military, could face furloughs or will work without pay until a resolution ends the shutdown. Furthermore, national parks and monuments could close or have limited staff, but the fate of government financial assistance remains uncertain. While Social Security and Supplemental Security Income recipients continue to receive payments during a shutdown, the availability of funds for critical food assistance programs for low-income citizens depends on individual states and the shutdown duration. However, what will be the impact on the veterans we serve daily if the government does indeed shut down?
Here is what will NOT be affected for veterans, according to the VA:
- Veteran health care will remain unaffected, with VA Medical Centers, Outpatient Clinics, and Vet Centers staying open.
- VA benefits, encompassing compensation, pension, education, and housing, will continue to be processed and distributed.
- Burials will proceed at VA national cemeteries, and the processing of applications for headstones, markers, and burial benefits will continue.
- The Board of Veterans’ Appeals will continue to make decisions on veterans’ cases.
- VA Contact Centers (1-800-MyVA411) and the Veterans Crisis Line (Dial 988, Press 1) will remain operational 24/7.
However, here is what will be affected for veterans, as per the VA:
- Veteran career counseling and transition assistance program activities will not be provided.
- The GI Bill Hotline will be closed.
- VA benefits regional offices will be closed.
- Public affairs and outreach efforts to veterans will be suspended.
- Permanent placement of headstones or maintenance of grounds at VA national cemeteries will be put on hold.
- Applications for pre-need burials will not be processed.
- Printing of new presidential memorial certificates will be postponed.
The VA stated that in the event of a prolonged shutdown, the VA will continue to review and update its plan in conjunction with the applicable legal requirements and circumstances. For veterans, the impact of a government shutdown varies, with certain essential services and benefits remaining unaffected, thanks to the efforts of the VA to safeguard their well-being. However, some crucial aspects of veterans’ support, such as career counseling and specific outreach programs, may be temporarily halted. The well-being of our veterans, and indeed the entire nation, depends on the ability of our lawmakers to find common ground and secure stable funding for our government. It is a responsibility that should be approached with the utmost diligence and commitment to the welfare of our citizens and those who have bravely served our country.