Government Shutdown Update 01: If the government shuts down on 18 MAR over unresolved differences in a spending bill, the impact may be felt more by the families of aged veterans than on government workers or military troops. That's because the Department of Veterans Affairs office responsible for burying veterans will close up shop if the cash stops coming, putting a halt to the internments of thousands of deceased vets. Just how many would be effected is hard to guess – it would depend on how long a shutdown dragged on. According to a Congressional Budget Office projection, the VA could be burying up to 100,000 veterans in 2011. "All memorial affairs [operations] should halt
," said Tom Tarantino, senior legislative associate for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association. "If you're in the Midwest or the Northeast they're not doing burials anyway because the ground is frozen." The difference is they will stop accepting applications for new burials, he said. But in parts of the country not under a deep freeze, burying vets will stop until any shutdown is over, he said. VA spokesman Drew Brookie said he couldn't comment or speculate on the impact of a shutdown on VA operations. In addition to burials, the VA's National Cemeteries Administration inters eligible family members, marks veterans' graves with government furnished headstones or markers and provides survivors with a Presidential Memorial Certificate recognizing the service of their deceased veteran. The agency also maintains national cemeteries as shrines and administers grants to establish or expand state veterans cemeteries, according to its website.
But for vets who are still alive and kicking, all healthcare services will be available despite a shutdown since money was already put toward VA healthcare in advance. Disability and pensions also are protected, Tarantino said, because the Justice Department concluded back in the 1990s that these payments are "property" that belongs to the veteran or eligible dependent. He said Justice made that ruling during a similar government shutdown in 1995. David Tucker, deputy staff director and chief minority counsel on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, said a shutdown would mean no new benefit claims – such as new GI Bill applications or disability petitions -- would be processed for as long as the feds are off the clock. Throughout the government, including the Defense Department, officials are keeping shutdown contingency plans close to their chest. DoD spokesman Col. Dave Lapan told reporters 24 FEB that there is a process for notifying civilians and contractors of a shutdown but offered no details.
In the event of a government shutdown, commissary customers are asked to check their local military installation news outlets before, during and after the event to determine if stores serving their area are open. As a matter of course, the Defense Commissary Agency plans for any event that could affect the operation of its stores," said Joseph H. Jeu, DeCA director and CEO. "We are currently updating existing plans to adjust commissary operations in case of a government shutdown. If this action does occur, we will use all available media to notify our customers of any specific changes in commissary operations. Customers should also stay abreast of the news that affects services on their installations." If a shutdown occurs, commissary customers also should monitor the Department of Defense website http://www.defense.gov
for any breaking news that affects service members and government civilians. During that time, customers can attempt to access the Commissary website http://www.commissaries.com
, but the agency's website could be down.
In response to a claim by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), that a shutdown would cause troops not to be paid, the Pentagon said in a statement that it would "do everything we have to do to continue to support the deployed troops. The Department must also continue many other operations for the safety of human life and protection of property," the statement said. "These types of activities will be 'exempt' from cessation. All other activities would need to be shut down in an orderly and deliberate fashion." In fact, military service is exempt from consequences of a government shutdown, as are most emergency and law enforcement operations. During the 1995 shutdown, about 571,000 Defense Department civilian employees, nearly 70%, remained on the job, while 258,000 other Pentagon workers were furloughed. Eighty-five percent of VA employees stayed on the job, as did 70% of Transportation Department workers, according to The Associated Press. White House spokesman Jay Carney recently referred reporters to the Office of Management and Budget for information on shutdown contingency plans, but the OMB keeps a lid on those. In an email, an OMB official said the plans are for internal and deliberative purposes. Still, according to reports, much of the government would continue as usual even with a shutdown.
[Source: Military.com Bryant Jordan article 25 Feb 2011 ++]