SHERIDAN — While an end to the national government shutdown now in its 16th day seemed to be in sight this morning, the Veterans Administration has been moving closer to exhausting funds available for veterans, which could impact several thousand Sheridan residents.
These veterans received a total of $42.386 million in disbursements, including compensation and pension payments, education and vocational rehabilitation and employment payments and insurance costs. The large majority of disbursements, $30.631 million, went to medical costs.
Despite the national shutdown, state veterans services remain unaffected.
Larry Barttelbort, executive director of the Wyoming Veterans Commission, said that state services are provided through the state general fund and will continue normal operations.
However, he said his office has received many calls from concerned veterans around the state, since the federal regional office is closed to public contact.
“The folks that we are most concerned about are the most vulnerable, those vets who are 100 percent disabled and are also relying on Social Security disability,” he said. “All these federal programs that help our most severely injured or disabled veterans, if those programs don’t continue, the quality of their life is going to be severely impacted.”
He added that some veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder may be particularly upset about the national conversation concerning loss of money and benefits for veterans and he encourages them to seek counseling at VA clinics or hospitals or to call the crisis line at 1-800-273-8255 if they are feeling particularly overwhelmed.
“There are a lot of veterans for whom all this talk of money is very stressful,” he said. “When they have been exposed to post-traumatic stress, their coping mechanisms may not be as good as we would like them to be. If you sat in your living room and watched Fox News or CNN long enough, you would get upset. Our veterans just don’t need that.”
Barttelbort recommended veterans keep on top of current information by visiting the Veterans Administration website at www.va.gov and consulting the Field Guide links which are kept updated regularly. Veterans can also visit the WVC website at wvc.wyo.gov for information on state services.
According to the VA’s website, critical functions such as the operation of VA medical centers and health clinics remain open during the shutdown, due to advance appropriations, but other benefits such as pension payments and funds for education will cease to be paid at the end of October.
A notice from the VA states, “Claims processing and payments in the compensation, pension, education and vocational rehabilitation programs are anticipated to continue through late October. However, in the event of a prolonged shutdown, claims processing and payments in these programs would be suspended when available funding is exhausted.”
Although regional Veterans Administration offices are closed due to the government shutdown, data from the Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics showed that in 2012, there were 3,184 veterans living in Sheridan County.