VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki visits VA facilities in Portland, Ore., in August. Shinseki said VA is ' working quickly to resume normal operations.' (Veterans Affairs Department)
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The Veterans Affairs Department is “working quickly to resume normal operations,” VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said Thursday.
In what should be a relief to many veterans, Shinseki said Nov. 1 benefits checks will be paid on time to more than 5 million disabled veterans, survivors and students.
Regional offices that had been closed to veterans were reopening, and furloughed benefits and information technology workers are returning to work as the partial government shutdown has come to an end. VA health care facilities were not affected by the shutdown.
It will take some time to catch up, especially with processing benefits claims.
Mandatory overtime for people processing claims stopped on Oct. 1 when the government was partly shutdown because Congress had not approved funding. The overtime requirement of 20 extra hours a month will be reinstated, and continue at least through Nov. 16.
When the government shutdown began Oct. 1, VA stopped mandatory overtime claims workers. Shinseki told the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Oct. 9 that the loss of overtime meant 1,400 fewer disability claims were being processed each day. Over the 16 days of the government shutdown, that amounts to 22,400 more claims at a time when the VA was claiming progress for a 190,000 reducing the claims backlog since March.
“We will fight hard to regain lost ground,” Shinseki said. “We remain committed to eliminating the disability claims backlog in 2015.”