Veterans will be affected by government shutdown

By Grant Bissell

ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - Starting Tuesday, the government shutdown will start to affect local veterans.

Marine Corps veteran Derek Normandid two tours of duty in Iraq. Now the Department of Veterans Affairs is helping him deal with the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.

Norman and veterans like him who are already getting benefits are lucky. The government shutdown won't affect veterans' medical care. But for the thousands of military members still returning from deployment, the shutdown could mean major delays in processing claims.

According to our partners at USA Today, on Sept. 28 the federal VA already had 725,469 cases pending, 58 percent of them for more than 125 days. Here in St. Louis, the VA's regional office will close Tuesday and all non-essential employees will be furloughed.

"The essential personnel will still be working tomorrow. They tell us the claims will not be interrupted," said Leonard Harris, the national area supervisor for the non-profit group Disabled American Veterans. The group helps veterans apply for benefits.

On Tuesday, the DAV's office in the regional Veterans Affairs center will also be closed. But their locations at the John Cochran and Jefferson Barracks medical centers will stay open. The DAV is also adding a mobile service office at Soldier's Memorial at 1315 Chestnut St in St. Louis.

But with no movement on Capitol Hill, Derek Norman is concerned about the future of his disability benefits.

"I rely on that every month to be able to live," said Norman. "I couldn't pay most of my bills and I'd really get behind if it stopped."

The Department of Veterans Affairs said it has enough money to process veterans' claims for pensions, compensation, education and vocational rehabilitation programs through late October, but a prolonged shutdown would suspend those programs once the money runs out.

Also not affected are VA medical appointments, prescription drug phone lines, home loan processing and veterans' crisis lines.

Click here for the VA's "Field Guide to Government Shutdown."
Click herefor the Disabled American Veterans homepage.


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