(WASHINGTON)—American Federation of Government Employees Local 940 Vice President Eleanor Davis Wescott, today joined Senate leaders for a news conference that highlighted the effect the government shutdown is having on the benefits and services provided to the nation’s veterans. Wescott has been a ratings specialist at the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) for 22 years and represents employees at the Philadelphia Regional Office.
“As a veteran I take great pride in the services my colleagues and I provide for America’s heroes,” said Wescott. “Unfortunately, because of the shutdown, more than one third of the workforce has been sent home. Our folks in public contact cannot provide in person customer service to our veterans who call or walk in the door. Our quality review team, which provides oversight to ensure claims are processed accurately, is not at work. Many others who develop and rate claims are also not on the job.”
The news conference, organized by Sen. Bernie Sanders, also featured remarks from Sens. Jon Tester, Richard Blumenthal, Mazie Hirono, Mark Begich and Sherrod Brown. This week 7,000 VBA employees have been furloughed because of a lack of agency funding triggered by the government shutdown.
“Nearly 52% of VBA workers are veterans themselves,” said Wescott. We come to work with mission specific efforts to reduce the backlog for our fellow veterans. With this furlough, we cannot meet our mission. It is very disheartening when I cannot give back to those who have sacrificed for our country.”
VBA has stated that veterans will stop receiving their benefits if the shutdown continues into late October.