Government Shutdown Forces Department Of Veterans Affairs To Furlough 7,000 Workers

6:34 PM, Oct 8, 2013   |    comments
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USA TODAY / WINSTON-SALEM, NC -- Another government agency is seeing the affects of the federal shutdown. This time it's the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Tuesday, the VA announced it exhausted some carryover funding and had to furlough 7,000 workers. Those who process compensation claims were mostly affected.

As a result, the VA cut off public access to all 56 regional offices where veterans routinely walk in to file claims for compensation of combat- or other service-related wounds, injuries or illnesses.

Here in the Triad, 200 workers were furloughed as a result. Employees told WFMY News 2, they arrived at work and were sent home after an hour.

Some workers and supporters in favor to stop the government shutdown protested in front of the Federal Building in downtown Winston-Salem. In all, there were about 30 furloughed workers at the rally.

"We were furloughed this morning. We worked in the Veterans Administration," said Steven Graves a Veterans Affairs employee.

"I'm on furlough right now but although there are some of us that are exempted from it and are still working but we are working without pay," said Donna Darrh a Veterans Affairs employee.

"We are asking Congress to do their jobs. So, we can do our jobs. We want to work. We want to serves veterans that what we are here for," said Geneva Moore a Veterans Affair employee.

Some federal workers called out Representative Howard Coble because he was taking a paycheck during the shutdown. Organizers even made a cardboard cut-out of the legislator, which read "No pay for Coble."

WFMY News 2 reached out to Coble's office, a spokesperson said that Mr. Coble will continue to take his pay because he has refused to participate in the Congressional Pension Program for the last 29 years, which means once he retires, taxpayers will owe him nothing.

As for the VA, major veteran service organizations expressed outrage Tuesday that these facilities were temporarily shuttered because many of their employees use this office space to assist veterans in preparing what are often complex compensation claims.

"Because Congress and the White House refuse to speak to each other, our country's veterans are suffering more with each passing day of this extremely dangerous impasse," said Daniel Dellinger, national commander of the American Legion, the largest veterans organization with 2.4 million members.

It remains unclear whether the VA will be sending out compensation checks on Nov. 1 to about 3.8 million veterans who rely on them, department spokeswoman Victoria Dillon says. While the VA is continuing to process compensation cases this month, funding for this will run out by the end of October if the shutdown continues, she says.

The VA pays out about $5 billion the first of each month to veterans in compensation and pension payments, Dillon says.

USA Today, WFMY News 2

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