JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A top city leader tells WOKV News that the partial federal government shutdown is slowing down services for local veterans in Jacksonville and Northeast Florida.
“Veterans don’t deserve this…and their family members,” says Retired Rear Admiral Victor Guillory, the Director of Jacksonville’s Department of Military Affairs, Veterans and Disabled Services.
Guillory says the federal Department of Veterans Affairs is still receiving initial benefits claims, but right now they are not accepting appeals.
“So it means longer wait times for our veterans and eligible family members,” he says.
On Tuesday, the Department of Veterans Affairs furloughed 7,000 employees at the Veterans Benefits Administration in addition to closing regional offices.
Guillory says the city’s ability to submit claims paperwork and get a quick response is “slowly falling by the wayside.”
“When we have the tough questions, or we need to get a specific answer, the ability to have someone on the other side answer the phone that’s competent and at work is the problem we’re having right now,” Guillory says.
Jacksonville’s Department of Military Affairs, Veterans and Disabled Services offers a unique service 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 with the V.A., and more.
“We will still file the claims and submit them, but we anticipate that the wait times for a response and decisions will grow,” Guillory says.
He believes that if the government shutdown lasts beyond the end of October, it will have implications to other veterans’ services. He says he’s keeping his eye on how veterans’ pensions and medical services could be affected in the future.
“I think that with each of this fiscal crisis, we will identify new concerns impacting our veterans,” Guillory says.
He still encourages veterans to come by City Hall and speak with a veteran service officer.
“We are open,” he says. “We are waiting for them to come in.”