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Will the government shutdown affect veterans with disabilities?

Last week, we talked to readers of our blog about how the potential government shutdown could affect Social Security benefits. While we only focused on disability benefits offered through SSI and SSD, we realize that some of our readers could be veterans from the armed services who are also living with a disability. We realize too that they may also have questions about how the government shutdown will affect them and are looking for answers. That’s what we wanted to focus this post on this week.

While the Department of Veterans Affairs does have good news -- it says it will have enough money to process claims for compensation, education, pensions and vocational rehabilitation programs through October -- this news does not come without a bad side. The department points out that if the shutdown goes on longer than expected, and the money dries up, then they will have no choice but to suspend these programs.

So what will this mean for beneficiaries?

Most likely this will mean that they will not have access to many of the services that offer assistance to people living with disabilities. This could also mean that new and pending claims are put on hold until the shutdown is lifted. According to the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs, at the end of September, the VA had a little over 725,400 cases pending. Of those, more than 58 percent have been waiting for more than 125 days. A continued shutdown would mean further waiting with no idea of when a resolution will be met.

As we mentioned last week, the appeals process could also be affected as well, meaning that many denied claimants may not get a chance anytime soon to have their case reheard by an administrative judge -- a problem both VA beneficiaries and disability beneficiaries may find frustrating.

Source: USA Today, "Backlogs for veterans could grow under shutdown," Pamela M. Prah, Oct. 3, 2013

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