In addition to news today that ‘death gratuities’ –to help grieving families pay for funeral expenses of fallen soldiers--have been stopped, now the American Legion is screaming about other benefits American soldiers have been denied under the government shutdown. American Legion activist and VictoriaTaft.com Blogforce member, Rees Lloyd sends along this missive by the Legion’s national headquarters blasting the Federal Government for furloughing employees, cutting off access to all 56 regional VA offices to Veterans looking for services. The shutdown of the VA started today, one week after the start of the impasse between President Obama and Congress on funding for ObamaCare, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act.
Veterans have suffered disproportionately in this shutdown. Clearly, the Federal Government runs the military and it’s a big target. Indeed, the President has appeared to use his discretion to inflict as much harm to as many people as possible, a move that is more Alinskyesque than Presidential.
The President has closed the cemetery at Normandy, France; refused to allow Chaplains to work for free and conduct services during the shutdown; infamously closed down the open air World War II Memorial, forcing elderly men who in their youth stormed the beaches of Normandy and Iwo Jima, to storm the barricades the Obama Administration had the National Park Service erect. The President shutdown the already sequester-slimmed Miramar Air Show. The shutdown was announced one day before the huge, privately funded event, was set to take off. The show is a big recruitment tool for the Marines. The President’s administration has also closed privately run commissaries at Camp Pendleton (and likely other bases and posts throughout the world). The President’s administration has also ended funding for military funerals and death benefits.
As the Washington Times’ Wes Pruden reports, Park Rangers have been told to make getting into National Parks, on Federal land, Memorials etc as difficult as possible,
“It’s a cheap way to deal with the situation,” an angry Park Service ranger in Washington says of the harassment. “We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.”
WASHINGTON (Oct. 8, 2013) — The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced it is placing more than 7,000 employees on furlough, effective Oct. 8, a move that will eliminate public access to all 56 of its Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) regional offices.
As a result of the furloughs, VBA can no longer conduct personal interviews and hearings, process GI Bill benefits, offer educational or vocational counseling, or provide outreach activities and programs — including VetSuccess on Campus. The reduced work force also means that American Legion service officers are unable to use office space allocated to them at the regional offices.
Daniel M. Dellinger, national commander of The American Legion, expressed outrage at the latest impact of the government shutdown on veterans. “Because Congress and the White House refuse to speak to each other, our country’s veterans are suffering more with each passing day of this extremely dangerous impasse.
“Now we’ve reached the point where VA can’t even process benefits claims for our men and women who served in uniform. Our nation’s leaders need a reality check. Do they really think they are serving the best interests of our veterans — or the best interests of all Americans — by forcing government agencies to shut down?”
On Oct. 4, Dellinger held a press conference at the World War II Memorial in Washington, a memorial that was initially closed to World War II veterans and is still closed to the public. He told reporters that the House of Representatives, the Senate and President Obama were all to blame for the shutdown.
Besides the 7,000 VBA workers furloughed, VA has also placed more than 2,700 OIT workers on furlough. This means that all development of VA software has ceased, including work on the Veterans Benefits Management System, which VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has repeatedly identified as a key component to eliminating the claims backlog.
In a statement, VA said claims processing will continue until funding is exhausted, “which is projected to happen in late October.” Mandatory overtime for claims processors, scheduled to continue until Nov. 16, has also been abruptly halted.
VA employees who staff the department’s compensation and pension call centers are still on the job. Veterans who want to file benefits claims or check on a claim’s status can still do so by calling (800) 827-1000.
VBA also announced it will no longer be able to respond to congressional inquiries until appropriations have been restored.
Secretary Shinseki is scheduled to testify Oct. 9 at a House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing that will examine the impact of the current government shutdown on VA operations.