VA would keep 97 percent of employees working during shutdown
Agency says it must spend down advance appropriations
The Veterans Affairs Department’s government shutdown contingency plan released today said 97 percent of the department’s employees would remain on duty to maintain health care and other services while a number of operations would be suspended or performed intermittently.
The VA today published a Contingency Plan and a Field Guide that describe steps to be taken if Congress allows federal spending appropriations to expire at midnight tonight.
The plan indicates that the percentage of employees to remain on duty would be higher than it was during the 1995 -1996 federal shutdown. The reason for this is because the VA has received advance appropriations from Congress, which now make up 86 percent of its discretionary budget.
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Under federal rules, if there is money available in discretionary accounts, then that funding must be used to continue operations until the balances are depleted, the VA said in the planning document.
Under current plans, 302,394 VA employees would be retained and exempted from furloughs, while 10,234 are subject to furlough, the contingency plan stated. Approximately 278,592 of the retained positions are funded by advance appropriations at the Veterans Health Administration.
Based on White House guidance, employees involved in protection of life and property are to be exempted, or excepted, from furloughs.
At the VA, exempt activities include veterans medical care, compensation and pension benefits, housing, and burial services, along with some research activities, the contingency plan states. Other excepted functions include the VA’s Office of Information and Technology’s information systems that support health services to veterans.
At the IT office, 5,421 positions would be exempted from furlough of a total of 6,921 employees, the contingency plan said.
VA medical and dental hospitals and clinics, crisis support systems, and some national call lines and processing functions would remain functioning, according to the VA’s field guide.
About 20 VA national call lines would suspend operation, and the VA’s homepage, Facebook page, Twitter and blog will be updated intermittently, among other limitations in service.
Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.