Veteran Affairs health care will continue despite government shutdown

Friday, April 8, 2011 | 6:51 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The Truman Veterans Hospital said Friday that a government shutdown would not interrupt the Veteran Affairs health care system.

Congress will release a decision regarding the possible shutdown by midnight Friday, according to Stephen Gaither, public affairs officer for the hospital. 

According to a news release, the Truman Veterans Hospital and its seven community-based outpatient clinics will remain open as usual. The Veterans Health Administration operating budget was appropriated in advance, and there is enough money to fund services for the rest of the fiscal year.

"We want to convey the message that we are open for business and veterans should not be concerned about health care services," Gaither said.

Gaither said if a shutdown occurs, the biggest impact will be on the benefits side. These benefits cover the personnel who process claims from veterans for service-related injuries. Claims lead to compensation and pension for disability.

The St. Louis office is responsible for the benefits section of the VA budget, Gaither said. The Truman Veterans' Hospital is part of a separate section, the Veterans Health Administration. 

In the event of a federal shutdown, other VA services could face suspension, according to Veteran's Field Guide to Government Shutdown. Among other impacted services, VA call centers and hot lines would be shut down and Freedom of Information Act queries would not be processed.

But regardless of a shutdown, Gaither said, "The whole gamut of health care services will be available to veterans."

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