The Texas Veterans Commission helps veterans file disability claims, which have stalled amid the government shutdown — adding to an already significant backlog.
“We can review them, but like I said, we review and make sure they are fully developed claims ... but when we finally turn them over to the VA, they sit there,” said Thomas P. Palladino, the commission’s executive director.
The commission is a state-run entity that supports Texas veterans. Its claims representation and counseling program employs counselors in 39 offices, helping veterans file service-connected compensation claims, pension claims and appeal claims ultimately processed at one of two Texas Veterans Affairs regional offices. Both, located in Waco and Houston, closed Monday due to the government shutdown.
After their Fort Hood office closed, counselors were relocated to the Vet Center in Harker Heights.
“Even though we may be affected by the federal government shutdown while Congress continues to negotiate a resolution, (the commission) will continue our mission to serve the veterans of Texas,” Palladino said. “We’re still operating because most of our funding comes from the state,” though some federally funded programs are stalled.
In August 2012, the governor committed $1.5 million to provide strike force teams to help alleviate the backlog of VA claims. At that time, 69,000 claims were backlogged, meaning the claims were more than 125 days old.
The teams have reviewed 25,693 cases and returned 6,296 to the VA ready to rate.
“All the hard work done with the VA ... that’s going to stop until the government resumes,” Palladino said.