VA benefits could be disrupted in extended shutdown

The possibility that VA benefits could be disrupted was not included in a VA “field guide” that was released on Friday to explain what would happen to the agency in a shutdown. The guide said that the processing of benefits would continue in a shutdown.

The congressional source said that more clarity was still being sought about the “precise effects” of a shutdown at the VA.

VA spokeswoman Victoria Dillon said claims processing and payments for "compensation, pension, education, and vocational rehabilitation programs are anticipated to continue through late October."

"However, in the event of a prolonged shutdown, claims processing and payments in these programs would be suspended as available funding is exhausted," she said. “In the event of a prolonged shutdown, VA will continue to review and update its plan in conjunction with the applicable legal requirements and circumstances."

Most of the department would remain open and functioning if the government shuts down, as VA healthcare functions are funded a year ahead through advanced appropriations, thanks to a 2009 law.

Of the VA’s 330,000 employees, about 14,00 would face furloughs, according to a VA planning document.

The heads of the House Veterans Affairs Committee have pushed legislation to fund the entire VA budget one year in advance.

House Veterans Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) said the possibility of benefits being cut off is “precisely why” the legislation is needed.

“The bill would ensure that all VA services have timely, predictable funding in an era where sequesters, continuing resolutions and threats of government shutdowns are all too frequent,” Miller said in a statement.

The VA congressional briefing that raised the prospect of benefits not being paid was first reported by The Washington Post.

— This story was updated at 4:30 p.m.