Shutdown effects worse than imagined for VA

With no sign of the government shutdown ending, the budget stalemate in Congress has caused the Department of Veterans Affairs to take “one step forward and two steps back” in its effort to reduce a backlog of disability claims, Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., said Wednesday.

“I know they were making progress,” Titus, a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said after a hearing in which she said VA Secretary Eric Shinseki told the committee that the effects of the shutdown are worse than imagined.

Now, with 7,000 VA benefits employees furloughed Tuesday, including 32 at the Reno regional benefits office, new claims are still coming in while “old ones sit there with no progress.”

With most claims workers furloughed, “they’re not answering the phone. They’re just taking claims in and time-stamping them,” said Titus, the ranking member of the disability assistance and memorial affairs subcommittee.

She said the shutdown is having a compounded effect on the 12,000 civilian federal employees in Nevada because 30 percent of them — 4,000 — are also military veterans.

“We’re trying to do everything we can,” to end the shutdown, she while on her way to the White House to meet with President Barack Obama and other Democrats.

Contact reporter Keith Rogers at or 702-383-0308.