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An extended government shutdown will take $6.2 billion out of the pockets of people depending on veterans benefits, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki warned Wednesday.
The VA will exhaust its funding for benefits in about two weeks, he said.
Testifying before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Shinseki said estimated 3.8 million veterans, including 433,000 who are totally disabled, won’t be receiving disability compensation and 360,000 surviving spouses and children won’t be receive dependency and indemnity compensation if the government shutdown isn’t resolved by the end of October.
Additionally, he said 560,000 students won be received education benefits and 315,000 veterans and 200,000 surviving spouses won’t receive pensions for those with low incomes.
That is not the only harm, he said. While furloughs have already started, things will get worse. Claims processing already has slowed but an extended shutdown would result in the VA suspending all claims processing. “Nearly 5,600 veterans a day will not receive a decision on their disability claims,” he said.
His testimony comes on the ninth day of a partial government shutdown caused by the inability of Congress and the White House to agree on funding for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.
The House of Representatives has passed a bill to provide temporary funding to protect veterans benefits from delays, but the Senate has not taken up the measure and the White House opposes it.
Shinseki said the so-called “piecemeal” funding “is not the best solution for our veterans or our nation.”
“Veterans depend on government services beyond just those provided by VA,” he said. For example, the Labor Department provides education counseling, vocational rehabilitation and job programs. The Small Business Administration has closed it business outreach centers and its services for veteran-owned businesses. The Housing and Urban Development Department has stopped issuing vouchers to aid homeless veterans.