By the time you read this, there may or may not be a resolution to the on-off-and-on-again shutdown of the United States government. If agreements cannot be reached in Washington, and if the shutdown resumes on February 15th, will veterans still receive their benefits? Can an Evansville veterans disability lawyer help?
As of January 25th, the government has officially been reopened. However, this can possibly be temporary, as The President insists that he will veto any spending proposal that does not fund a border wall project. The House of Representatives, in contrast, insists that it will not fund any border wall project.
WILL THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SHUT DOWN AGAIN?
What is unclear is what role the federal courts will play if the Trump administration declares a national emergency and moves forward with the border wall project.
Should the president declare a national emergency, that action would almost certainly trigger an injunction from a federal court that would halt the Trump administration and complicate everything – including the government shutdown.
For the 35 days (possibly the “first” 35 days) that the government was shut down – December 22th, 2018 through January 25th, 2019 – over 400,000 federal employees continued working without receiving paychecks.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Contingency Plan for a government shutdown requires almost all Veterans Affairs employees – about 95 percent – to report to work. Veterans Affairs medical facilities are to remain open and to maintain their normal operations and procedures.
WHAT ABOUT PAYCHECKS FOR ACTIVE DUTY PERSONNEL?
With the exception of the Coast Guard, no active duty military personnel will go without a paycheck during a government shutdown. But on January 16th, all Coast Guard personnel missed a paycheck because of the shutdown.
Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Karl Schultz announced a $15 million donation from the USAA Bank to the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA), which operates like the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society or the Air Force Aid Society.
WHAT ABOUT THE EXPECTED PAY HIKE?
The 2.6 percent 2019 military pay raise is guaranteed except for those with 4-star or higher ranks. Top military paygrades may not exceed the highest federal government civilian pay rate, and that rate has not been set due to the stalemate over the federal budget.
All active U.S. military operations will continue, and most active duty personnel will notice no change. However, the families of any service members who are killed in action during a government shutdown won’t receive the $100,000 death gratuity until the government re-opens.
What the Defense Department cannot do – without the passage of a federal budget – is to spend on new programs or initiate any new spending whatsoever. If the shutdown resumes on February 15th, the U.S. will not be buying any tanks, planes, or ships until there is a budget agreement.
WHAT ABOUT VETERANS’ BENEFITS?
During a federal government shutdown, military retirees and Survivor Benefit Plan recipients receive their pension checks with no interruption. That’s because the funds for the pension checks are not linked to the current disputed federal budget.
Former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin explains, “The VA is in a fortunate situation … so we get our money a year ahead of time because I think Congress understands that the VA can’t shut down, that we are there for the safety of our veterans.”
The current Veterans Affairs Secretary, Robert Wilkie, released a statement affirming that the “VA is fully funded for fiscal year 2019, and in the event of a partial government shutdown, all VA operations will continue unimpeded.”
WHAT ABOUT DISABILITY PAY, GI BILL BENEFITS, AND SGLI PAYMENTS?
Like military retiree pay, Veterans Affairs disability payments and GI Bill payments are funded with different legislation that is not a part of the current budget battle. Those who receive disability or GI bill payments will continue receiving those payments without interruption.
Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) payments will not be affected, either.
IS THERE ANY HOPE FOR A BUDGET RESOLUTION?
According to the Associated Press on January 30th, “Democrats remain united against Trump’s vision for a massive wall project, yet some are signaling a willingness to deal in the wake of the 35-day partial government shutdown.”
The AP adds that, “For their part, GOP leaders want to de-escalate the battle over the border wall and suggest they too could be flexible as bargainers seek a bipartisan agreement.”
Each side is trying to appear more reasonable than the other, but there is no actual proposal that is attracting any bipartisan support. Will the government shut down again on February 15th? Right now, there is simply no way to know.
ARE YOU ELIGIBLE FOR VA DISABILITY BENEFITS?
As mentioned previously, for those who are receiving monthly disability benefit payments through the Department of Veterans Affairs, nothing is going to change.
However, if you are not receiving VA disability payments, and if you are a veteran who is dealing with a service-related disability, you may be eligible for tax-free, monthly disability benefits.
Veterans Affairs disability benefits are available to veterans who are dealing with illnesses or injuries that were sustained or acquired on active duty or exacerbated by active duty.
WHAT CAN A DISABILITY LAW FIRM DO ON YOUR BEHALF?
If you are a disabled veteran in Indiana, arrange at once to consult an experienced Evansville disabled veterans lawyer who can help you apply for benefits and help you understand how the VA determines, defines, and ranks various kinds of disabilities.
Veterans are sometimes denied the disability benefits they genuinely need and deserve. If you were denied disability benefits less than a year ago, you can appeal the VA’s decision – but you will need an attorney’s insights and advice.
A disabled veterans attorney will guide a disabled veteran through every step of the application process – and if necessary, through the appeals process.
If you are disabled as a result of serving this nation, you are entitled to benefits, and you have the right to a good attorney’s advice and services. But you have to take the first step – and make the call.