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WASHINGTON – Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, introduced a bi-partisan bill to make sure veterans continue receiving benefits assistance during the partial shutdown of the federal government, his office announced Friday.
“Veterans depend on being able to call their regional office to check on their claims, and with the support staff missing, many of these calls may go unanswered,” McNerney said in a statement released to news organizations. “(Veterans Service Organizations) provide a critical role in helping veterans develop claims, assisting VA employees, and making sure veterans have all of the information they need to submit their claims.”
Under the Veterans Services Support Act, Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and American Legion will be allowed to continue to work alongside VA employees at regional offices during the shutdown.
McNerney introduced the bill after hearing testimony VA Secretary Shinseki gave to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on how the shutdown would affect claims.
According to McNerney, the halt in funding for the VA has already led to claims processing delays for 1,400 veterans per day. Before the shutdown, employees who process benefits claims had been working overtime to help reduce the backlog of claims, but the government shutdown has led to overtime being eliminated. McNerney said that without action, the large backlog of disability claims would to increase dramatically.
The Veterans Services Support Act was co-sponsored by Rep. Walter Jones, Rep. Corrine Brown, Rep. Mike Thompson, and Rep. Rush Holt.