Military Education Benefits Could be Affected by Government Shutdown
The first day of October marks the start of a new fiscal year for the federal government, but Congress is still wrangling over the budget needed to fund everything from visa processing to military education benefits. Progress is currently being delayed by attempts to defund some parts of the Affordable Care Act, though even larger challenges lay ahead in both the House and Senate.
A stopgap spending bill – which just cleared a procedural hurdle on Wednesday morning – is currently working its way through Congress. If lawmakers don’t pass it, the government could shut down next week.
Military personnel are classified as essential, so they are not at risk of being furloughed like many other government employees. But some of the benefits that servicemembers rely on could see significant delays and interruptions, including tuition assistance and the G.I. Bill.
This is not the first time the Pentagon has had to anticipate a government shutdown. Cmdr. Bill Urban, a spokesman for the Defense Department Comptroller’s office, told Stars and Stripes that past experience is guiding current preparations.
“It’s prudent management for us to update our plans,” said Urban. “We’re certainly using past plans as a basis for this potential shutdown.”
On previous occasions when a shutdown was looming, officials from the U.S. Department of Veterans affairs said that existing claims for education and other benefits would continue to process. However, they warned that such claims could be delayed, and new claims would not be processed while the shutdown is in effect.
Should Congress pass the stopgap spending bill, it will fund the government through November 15. If the House and Senate fail to agree on a final budget before then, military personnel – as well as all other Americans – will be facing yet another potential shutdown.