Updated 

Federal shutdown halts VA benefit claims catch-up effort


The Department of Veterans Affairs’ effort to reduce a staggering backlog of claims by having its staff work overtime came to a halt Tuesday when more than 7,000 employees at VA benefits offices nationwide, including workers in Reno and at an outlet in North Las Vegas, were furloughed because of the congressional budget impasse.

The VA Reno office furloughed 32 benefits workers and closed its doors Tuesday “as a result of the lapse in federal appropriations,” VA spokesman Nathan Miller wrote in an email to the Review-Journal.

The VA benefits satellite office that’s inside the VA Medical Center in North Las Vegas was also shuttered Tuesday because of the partial government shutdown, Miller said, even though the medical center remains open.

That means walk-in services offered by VA Reno regional benefits facilities for more than 250,000 veterans in Nevada and part of Northern California will be on hold until the budget impasse is resolved.

“Due to the shutdown, the Veterans Benefits Administration will not be able to continue overtime for claims processors,” according to a statement from the benefits administration.

“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,” the statement reads.

Veterans Benefits Administration officials added that interments handled by the National Cemetery Administration will continue “but may be on a reduced schedule.”

Meanwhile, VA medical centers, clinics and other health services remain open during the partial government shutdown because those facilities are funded through advance appropriations for 2014.

The VA Medical Center in North Las Vegas, four primary care satellite clinics around the Las Vegas Valley, an outpatient clinic in Pahrump and a mobile clinic in Laughlin operated by the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System are covered by the advance appropriation. Combined, those medical facilities will continue to serve 46,000 veterans.

Contact reporter Keith Rogers at krogers@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0308.

 

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