During the November 1995 shutdown, about 86 percent of the VA’s 239,000 employees were exempt from furloughs, including the bulk of those working at VA medical centers, according to figures provided to Congress. But at veterans benefit offices, calls went unanswered, mail was not opened and claims were not processed.
A shutdown this year would also fall heaviest on the benefits administration, said Garry Augustine, national service director for the advocacy group Disabled American Veterans. Because disability checks and other payments go out at the beginning of the month, those would not be affected by a shutdown immediately after March 4, Augustine said.
Processing of new veterans benefits claims could be slowed, he said, and initial payments to new claimants — which cover the period starting with the date of the claim submission — could be reduced since new claim submissions would not be processed during a shutdown.