Crucial benefits for veterans won’t be affected if government shuts down

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Department of Veterans Affairs says many of the most crucial benefits and services offered by the VA will still be available if there is a government shutdown.

That reassurance comes as there is a special event happening at FSCJ’s Kent Campus on Thursday afternoon for veterans and their families. They will be able to get help with things like claiming VA benefits and finding resources for mental and physical health.

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Additional services available Thursday include health care enrollment, toxic exposure screenings and information on the veteran’s crisis hotline.

Representatives with the North Florida and South Georgia VA Health System anticipate at least 1,000 veterans and their families to attend the Vet Fest.

This comes as a possible government shutdown looms.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough recently said the department is doing everything it can to prepare for a government shutdown.

“VA would continue to process and deliver benefits to veterans, including compensation, pension, education and housing benefits; and the Board will continue to process appeals,” McDonough said.

However, McDonough said if the government shuts down, the VA would not be able to conduct outreach to veterans and regional offices would close. There would also not be any career counseling, transition assistance or maintenance for cemetery grounds.

Another big topic of discussion at Thursday’s Vet Fest is going to be education on the PACT Act — the “Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxins Act.”

It was signed into law last year and expands VA health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange and other toxic substances.

Josh Pridgen, who is the associate director for Primary Care and outpatient services, says those same veterans would have a chance to enroll directly in VA health care without having to first apply for a disability claim.

“The law also contains a special enrollment period for veterans who served after the Gulf War and were discharged between 2001 and 2013, who saw combat or served in a combat zone,” Pridgen said.

Vet Fest runs from 2-5 p.m. Thursday at FSCJ’s Kent Campus on Roosevelt Boulevard.

If a veteran is already enrolled in the VA health system, all they would need to bring with them is a photo ID.

If they are not enrolled, they should bring a photo ID, a copy of their military records, if available, and a copy of their DD 214.

Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4JAX – All rights reserved. Crucial benefits for veterans won’t be affected if government shuts down

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