Today, Dr. Raul Ruiz (D-Palm Desert), advocated for veterans at a House Committee on Veterans Affairs meeting. Dr. Ruiz questioned Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki about how recent furloughs by the Veterans Affairs Administration will affect veterans throughout his district.
"It is unconscionable that House leadership continues to put political gamesmanship above the needs of our veterans," said Dr. Ruiz. "The VA is now being required to furlough thousands of employees, only adding to the crippling backlog of claims and forcing our veterans to go without the benefits they have earned.
"The needs of my constituents are my top priority and in light of the furloughs at the VA, I want to ensure veterans across the district know that my offices will remain open with expanded hours to help them secure VA benefits.
"The best way to help veterans is to end the political posturing and come to a pragmatic solution to bring this shutdown to an end. "
The Department of Veterans Affairs announced that over 7,000 Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) employees have been furloughed. In addition, 2,754 Office of Information Technology employees have been furloughed due to the exhaustion of FY 2013 carry over funding.
Since October 1st, the backlog of disability and pensions claims increased by about 200 rising to over 418,700.
Dr. Ruiz's Congressional Office has expanded hours of operation during a government shutdown to assist constituents affected by closures. The Palm Springs office will remain open from 7am to 7pm. Monday--Friday, and by appointment Saturday and Sunday until the government reopens.