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VA shuts access to regional benefits centers

The Department of Veterans Affairs has closed public access to regional benefits centers because of the partial federal government shutdown.

The decision apparently affects access to one employee at the VA campus in Fort Wayne, according to Michael Brady, public affairs officer for VA Northern Indiana Health Care Center.

VA operates 58 regional benefits centers. An Indianapolis center, which employs 150 people, administers benefits to about 550,000 people in Indiana.

Brady stressed that VA health services, including those at the VA Medical Center on Lake Avenue, are not being affected by the government shutdown, which began Oct. 1 after Congress failed to extend appropriations to fiscal year 2014.

"We are staying open to provide care to our veterans," Brady said Tuesday in an email.

He released this statement of guidance from VA:

"Starting Tuesday, October 8, 2013, during the government shutdown, VA regional benefit offices will not be open to the public. VA medical centers, clinics, and other health services have advance appropriations and will remain open. VA has funds available to ensure claims processing and payments in the compensation, pension, education, and vocational rehabilitation programs will continue through late October. However, in the event of a prolonged government shutdown, claims processing and payments in those programs will be suspended when funds are exhausted. Visit http://www.va.gov/opa/appropriations_lapse_plan.asp for current information on VA services that will be available and those that will be impacted by the lapse in appropriations."

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