The Department of Veterans Affairs has halted all software development, including work on a $491 million paperless Veterans Benefits Management System, according to Nextgov. The news comes after the department furloughed 2,754 IT employees. The VA also furloughed its 7,000 employees processing disability and education claims, and has closed public access to the Veterans Benefits Administration’s 56 regional offices.
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has emphasized that the Veterans Benefits Management System is essential in eliminating disability claims processing backlogs by 2015, according to Nextgov. The VA’s furloughs and office shutdowns drew public ire and heightened political tensions over the government shutdown and negotiation impasse.
According to USA Today, the Veterans Benefits Administration has more than 21,000 employees, and most of them remain on the job. Of the 332,000 total VA employees, fewer than 15,000 are subject to furloughs during lapses in appropriations. The majority of those who are exempt provide medical care. Veterans’ hospitals, clinics and counseling and rehabilitation programs remain open.