The Veterans Administration announced that, with 7,000 furloughed workers, regional offices will close tomorrow and will remain closed until the government shutdown is ended. No one will even answer phones. This is a terrible blow to veterans who are waiting for claims and other business to be resolved. According to an Oct. 7 Army Times report, Veterans Affairs Department spokeswoman Victoria Dillon said,
"All public access to VBA regional offices and facilities will be suspended,"
Veterans will not be able to call regional offices, but toll free numbers set up to help veterans will be working. As for the volunteers who help veterans with their claims, they will have trouble continuing their work because their offices are often housed in VA regional facilities.
The VA has contingency plans for shutdowns and funds shortages.This helps to keep all but about 15,000 of the agency's 332,000 employees on the job. However, most of those who escape furloughs are in the medical care system.
The Benefits Administration has lost about 7,000 of about 21,000 employees, so most of the benefits workers will remain on the job.
Monday's furlough also affected 2,754 IT workers in the Office of Information Technology. This will slow or stop software and hardware development that was helping to clear the claims backlog.
The backlog in veterans benefits claims was lowered to about 418,000 before this setback. A total of about 725,000 claims will face an uncertain future until the shutdown is over.
As an even more bitter blow, veterans who depend on their pension checks will likely see a delay in their payments. This will happen if the shutdown goes on later than the last two weeks in October. That is when the VA will run out of money.