Although the 16-day government shutdown is over, veterans might face lingering obstacles when filing their disability claims. According to CNN, the shutdown interrupted the processing of the disability claims backlog, which has been accumulating at the Department of Veterans Affairs for several years.
Earlier this year, the VA devised a plan to eliminate the backlog by 2015 through mandating overtime processing, according to the agency's website. The plan applies to claims that have been sitting unanswered for more than 125 days – the VA's average response waiting period.
While the VA's claims processors were not furloughed during the government shutdown, the overtime processing was canceled due to the lack of federal funds, according to the news outlet. Now, veterans might once again face a longer wait.
The news source reported that VA Secretary Eric Shinseki testified during an October congressional hearing with the Committee House Committee on Veterans Affairs that the shutdown will greatly affect the rate of claims processing and increase the backlog.
"We are no longer making the significant gains we have made in recent months toward eliminating the backlog in claims," Shinseki said during the hearing.
According to the VA's website, the agency has processed a record-high 1 million disability claims in the last three years, and nearly 4 million veterans rely on the VA for disability benefits.