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VA benefits resuming after shutdown, but problems remain
The Department of Veterans Affairs is working quickly to resume normal operations now that the government shutdown is over.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki says benefits checks due on November 1 will be paid on time. But some veterans are still nervous about what the future may hold.
The shutdown has been tough on veterans who have benefits and on those applying for them. The VA was already way behind on processing claims and now it has even more work to catch up on.
Mandatory overtime for workers processing those huge piles of claims stopped when the shut down began on October 1.
That meant 1,400 fewer disability claims were processed each day. The number of pending claims now stands at around 725,000 so processors who are going back to clocking long hours have their work cut out for them.
Barbara Cruz, the wife of a veteran, said, "We never know what to expect from our government anymore."
Cruz says her husband served in the Marine Corps for 30 years. She says the shutdown has made her insecure about his benefits.
"We're made promises, we don't know if they're gonna be there," Cruz said, "We don't know what we're gonna have in the future."
Cleve Lovelace, a Navy veteran, knows all too well what it can be like to deal with the VA. He says it took nearly two years to get pension benefits for his mother, who is the widow of a World War II veteran.
"All the paperwork was in line," Lovelace said, "It was just hurry up and wait, that's what it was."
Nearly 60 % of the benefits claims now pending at the VA are considered backlogged, meaning they've gone unprocessed for about four months or more.
"All of our service people are doin' a great service for this country," Lovelace said, "They should be taken care of for the service they've done. They should not be used as a political pawn."
Despite the setback from the shutdown, Secretary Shinseki says he's committed to eliminating the backlog in 2015.