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Services for vets slow down due to government shutdown

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Updated: 10/09/2013 11:49 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville's Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic is still operating in the midst of the government shutdown, but Action News found recent furloughs at the VA will impact many of our local veterans.

The VA furloughed nearly 10,000 workers Tuesday.

Michael Ellis spends every day feeding local veterans at the Five Star Veterans Center.

The local nonprofit helps homeless vets find jobs and it provides transitional housing.

Action News' Ryan Smith learned the government shutdown is impacting some of the most vulnerable veterans in Northeast Florida.

The VA is still receiving initial benefit claims, but right now it is not accepting appeals.

"It takes a while for an appeal to go through in the first place," said Ellis. "It takes almost nine months for an appeal to go through completely, so if they delay it two or three months, it's going to be almost a year."

The shutdown also halted the progress the VA was making in reducing a backlog of disability and pension claims.

Jacksonville U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, a Democrat, says our local heroes shouldn't be caught in Congress' political sparring.

"Come Nov. 1, the VA will run out of money. Well, what would that mean? That means they will not get their school benefits, they will not get their disability benefits; it's just unacceptable. And it's just not even necessary," said Brown, speaking to reporters in Washington Wednesday.

Ellis relies on a monthly retirement check from the VA -- money he fears will disappear if the shutdown lingers too long. "I'll probably end up out on the street," said Ellis. "My rent money, my car payment, that's money I count on every month."

Jacksonville's Department of Military Affairs, Veterans and Disabled Services offers services to local veterans. They can come to City Hall weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. and meet with a veteran resource officer, even without an appointment. The officers can assist the veteran with making phone calls, filling out paperwork for the VA, and more.
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