Agency Operations in the Absence of Appropriations
*As Required by the Office of Management and Budget Circular A-11
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is committed to providing quality, consistent care and services to Veterans and their families. VA’s mission allows no exception to this standard even when operations are limited by the absence of appropriations (commonly known as a “Government shutdown”). This document outlines which employees would be necessary for the Department’s continued performance of activities that are “excepted,” pursuant to applicable legal requirements or a separate funding source, and the activities that would be subject to furlough.
- VA revised its biennial contingency plan for fiscal year (FY) 2024 through FY 2025 in accordance with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A–11, Section 124, dated August 2023, and OMB Memorandum M-18-05, dated January 19, 2018. Based on the instructions contained in Circular A-11, and the Antideficiency Act, this document details VA’s lapse determinations to be implemented if appropriations are not passed by Congress or if appropriations are passed by Congress but not signed by the President before the beginning of the workday immediately following a lapse. It applies to all personnel and contractors assigned to or performing services for VA.
The Department pursued a comprehensive approach to diminish the impact of a potential shutdown on Veterans and their family members. In doing so, VA identified functions and programs exempt from furlough or for which there is a legal basis for designating exceptions, including those required by “necessary implication” and “for protection of life and property.” VA Administrations and Staff Offices (A/SO) were asked to review their organizations and identify these specific functions and programs (and the positions required to support them). A/SO decisions were based on long-standing OMB and Department of Justice guidance, and consultation with VA’s Office of General Counsel (OGC).
Federal activities that are authorized to continue during a funding lapse are either exempt or “excepted” activities. Federal activities financed with funds from a source other than annually appropriations are exempt and not subject to furlough during a government-wide lapse. The categories of Federal activities that may be “excepted” from a shutdown are: (1) those activities expressly authorized by law; (2) those activities necessarily implied by law; (3) those activities necessary to discharge of the President’s constitutional duties and powers; and (4) those activities necessary to protect human life or Government property. In the Department’s shutdown contingency deliberations, VA identified those functions and programs legally excepted to facilitate services the Agency must provide to the Nation’s Veterans and their families. These exempt and excepted services include providing consistent, high-quality medical care, compensation and pension benefits, housing, and burial services.
An analysis of VA functions that were impacted during the previous Government shutdowns revealed the following:
- Beginning with FY 2011, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) was authorized to request advance appropriations under P.L. 111-81. VHA received the FY 2013 advanced appropriation under P.L. 112-74 and has continued to receive an advance appropriation since FY 2013. As a result of the advance appropriation, medical services, medical community care, medical support and compliance, and medical facilities were minimally impacted during more recent Government shutdowns since 2013.
- Some benefit activities and payments, such as benefit adjustments and insurance, were delayed during the 2013 shutdown.
- Loan Guaranty certificates of eligibility and certificates of reasonable value were also delayed during the 2013 shutdown.
- The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) has received advance appropriations for its entitlement programs since FY 2017.
In anticipation of a potential FY 2024 or FY 2025 shutdown, VA considered several factors that provide ample justification to support the number of excepted VA employees and functions in the event of a present-day shutdown.
- Advance appropriations and two-year appropriations prior year balances are available for VHA. VHA research operations are not funded by the advance appropriation, but certain key functions that support research operations are justifiable exceptions for protecting life and property.
- Any potential carryover balances from the prior year should be allocated to sustain continued operations until those account balances are depleted.
- The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022 (PACT Act) (P.L. 117-168), created the Toxic Exposures Fund (TEF) to fund health care and benefits delivery for Veterans with exposure to environmental hazards. The TEF supports activities in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), the Office of Information and Technology (OIT), the Board of the Veterans’ Appeals (Board) and staff offices. The Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 (P.L. 118-05) provided an advance appropriation for the TEF. Carryover balances in the TEF from prior years should be allocated to sustain continued operations until those accounts balances are depleted. This could result in some employees remaining in a “paid” status while others performing similar work would be in an “unpaid” status.
As directed by OMB Circular A-11, section 124.2, this plan describes VA actions to be taken for a short-term lapse (1-5 days). VA may adjust these plans if a lapse extends beyond a short-term period.
As a result of the methodology and criteria above, the Department’s current projection is that 96 percent of VA employees would be fully funded or required to perform excepted functions during a shutdown. Approximately 414,208 employees are exempt because they are funded by an advance appropriation, multi-year funding or carryover, including 403,159 VHA employees. The total projected number of employees to be retained as “excepted” under this plan who meet one of the categorical exceptions described in OMB M-18-05 criteria, is 26,532. The total number of exempt and excepted is 440,740. The number of employees not otherwise exempt or excepted is 17,839.
The table below provides an overview of the impact of a lapse in appropriations on the VA workforce.
Table 1: Contingency Plan Summary Overview
|Estimated time (to nearest half day) required to complete shutdown activities:||3 days average|
|Total number of agency employees expected to be on board before implementation of the plan:||458,579|
|Total number of agency employees expected to be furloughed under the plan|
|Total number of employees to be retained under the plan for each of the following categories (may include duplicated count):|
|Compensation is financed by a resource other than annual appropriations:||414,208|
|Necessary to perform activities expressly authorized by law:||11|
|Necessary to perform activities necessarily implied by law:||14,696|
|Necessary to the discharge of the President’s constitutional duties and powers:||0|
|Necessary to protect life and property:||11,825|
|Total number of employees to be retained under the plan:||440,740|
Summary of Significant Activities that Will Continue During Lapse
The following activities will continue during a lapse of appropriations:
- Veteran medical care and critical services within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) will continue, as they are financed with advance appropriations. This will include suicide prevention programs, homelessness programs, the Veterans Crisis Line and caregiver support.
- VHA work for medical and prosthetic research is funded by a multi-year appropriation and is therefore “exempt” from furlough (until funds are expended).
- Certain work to protect against imminent threats to life and property within VHA medical and prosthetic research will continue as an excepted function. VHA research is funded by a multi-year appropriation and will continue to work until funds are exhausted , after which a portion of employees may be furloughed.
- The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) will continue various benefit functions, such as Education Benefit Claims processing and payments, insurance processing, loan guaranty programs, Veteran Readiness and Employment payment processing, VBA National Call Centers (except for Education), Compensation and Pension Claims processing and payments, Decision Review Operations Centers and management. These functions will continue as necessarily implied to prevent significant disruption to mandatory benefits programs.
- The National Cemetery Administration (NCA) will continue to inter Veterans and eligible family members, schedule burials and determine eligibility, process applications for headstones and markers, and update electronic files to ensure timely termination of benefits and next of kin notification of possible entitlement to survivor benefits. These functions continue as excepted to protect human life and the property interests of the deceased.
- The Board of Veterans’ Appeals (the Board, BVA) will continue to render appellate decisions on Veterans’ benefits cases and hold hearings to consider arguments and evidence related to those cases. VA compensation and pension benefits and education benefits are funded with other-than-annual appropriations, and the processing of appeals related to the timely and accurate payment of these entitlement benefits to or on behalf of Veterans and their dependents is necessary by implication.
- The Office of Information and Technology (OIT) will maintain direct and indirect information technology support to VHA, VBA, the Board and other offices as needed to maintain their exempt or excepted functions, including network maintenance and protection, information security, data center operations, excepted benefits, and enterprise infrastructure operations. OIT functions excepted as necessary to support exempt hospital functions and funded benefits programs and to protect proprietary Government systems will continue. Minimum administrative support to excepted functions (i.e., Timekeeping).
- The Office of General Counsel (OGC) will continue to provide legal assistance and litigation support in instances where reimbursements are funded by other-than-annual appropriations, and will provide legal advice and services to senior VA leadership on excepted functions identified in table 2.
- The Office of Management will continue to exercise fiscal oversight, financial management services and debt management center operations, financial management systems, the time and attendance system, and other critical systems. These operations, managed through the VA Financial Services Center and Debt Management Center, are funded by the Franchise Fund and are therefore exempt from furlough.
- Human Resources and Administration/Operations, Security, and Preparedness (HRA/OSP) will
- continue all Franchise funded activities in the Center for Enterprise Human Resources Information Services; Human Capital Services Center; Law Enforcement Training Center; and Personnel Security Adjudication Center. Due to funding reimbursed from other-than-annual sources, HRA/OSP will also continue providing services to VHA through the Office of Resolution Management, Diversity and Inclusion; Alternate Dispute Resolution Program; Child Care Subsidy Program; and VA Central Office (VACO) Personal Identity Verification (PIV) Card Office. To protect life and property, HRA/OSP will manage resources necessary to support law enforcement activities, executive protection, safety and security measures, emergency response efforts and limited operational HR services.
- Office Acquisition, Logistics, and Construction (OALC) will continue to provide services to protect Government property interests, including exempt acquisition operations, policy and logistics, lease build-out activities, and management of VA’s major construction that are funded from other-than-annual appropriations. In the absence of carryover, such functions would continue only as necessary for protection of Government property and for the orderly cessation of government functions in the event of a shutdown.
- VEO will maintain call center operations for MyVA411 and the PACT Act Contact Center as necessary to prevent disruption to mandatory VA benefit programs and to protect the health and safety of Veterans relying on accessible health care through VHA.
- The Electronic Health Records Modernization Integration Office will continue normal operations providing Departmental oversight of the critical mission of transitioning VA to a new electronic health record system. These activities would continue using available carryover from multi-year appropriations and are, therefore, “exempt.”
- Completion of existing duties for Employment Discrimination Complaint Adjudication within the Office of the Secretary is an “exempt” function relying on other-than-annual appropriations.
- The functions of the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization within the Office of the Secretary are funded by the Supply Fund and are therefore exempt from furlough.
- VA call centers will continue operations, with the exception of the VBA Education Call Center (the GI Bill Hotline: 888-GIBILL-1 or 888-442-4551) and the NCA Applicant Assistance Unit call center.
Summary of Significant Activities that Will Cease During Lapse
The following agency activities will cease during a lapse of appropriations:
- VHA research functions, including those supported by grants will cease after multi-year funding is exhausted and employees not excepted are placed in furlough status.
- Certain VBA functions, including the Education Call Center (the GI Bill Hotline: 888-GIBILL-1 or 888-442-4551); The Native American Veterans Direct Loan program (NADL) and the Vendee loan program which offers direct loans will cease. Veteran outreach to include Veteran Readiness and Employment (also known as Chapter 31 or VR&E) and Personalized Career Planning and Guidance (PCPG), or VA Chapter 36 will be suspended.
- VBA Transition Assistance Programs (TAP) will be suspended.
- VBA administrative functions including data analytics; human resources; budget activities; risk management oversight; investment planning and customer support; requirements, testing, and deployment support; support for Enterprise Health Record Modernization (EHRM) and interoperability; coordination and implementation of automated support tools; stakeholder engagement, public contact, and VSignals service recovery; Government Accountability Office (GAO)/Office of the Inspector General (OIG) tracking; and National Call Center monitoring and quality control.
- Permanent headstone or marker installation by NCA employees; grounds maintenance (mowing, trimming, mulching or other landscape management); processing of new Presidential Memorial Certificates (PMC) or pre-need applications; and awarding of new grants as part of the Veterans Cemetery Grant Program. (Minimal NCA central office staffing, such as HR, Finance, Budget, Contracting, etc. will be available to support the field in interment operations). The National Cemetery Administration (NCA) Applicant Assistance Unit call center will be closed.
- Legal services provided by OGC, including tribunal and routine legal services for VHA, VBA, NCA and Staff Offices regarding personnel law, ethics, torts, and other legal matters not related to exempt functions.
- Functions provided by the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP), including receiving, reviewing, and investigating allegations of misconduct, retaliation, or poor performance involving a VA senior executive; allegations of whistleblower retaliation; and tracking and confirming the implementation of GAO, OIG, Office of Medical Inspector (OMI), and Office of Special Counsel (OSC) reports and recommendations.
- Liaison support within the Office of the Secretary to Women and Minority Veterans and Veteran Service Organizations.
- Department-level oversight and policy functions provided by the HRA/OSP, in the areas of human capital management; occupational safety and health; labor relations; personnel security and suitability; and emergency planning and training.
- Nearly all operational HR services for senior executives and political appointees.
- Nearly all VACO facilities and support services.
- All IT functions that are not covered under OMB exception categories including: IT application management, enterprise portfolio management, demand management (business needs, architecture, engineering, cloud solutions, modernization applications), and the Financial Management Business Transformation Program (financial and acquisition management).
- Non-excepted financial and budget functions within the Office of Management, including routine operations performed by VA Chief Financial Officer, budget formulation, oversight, and analysis; improper Payment Elimination and Recovery Act and STOP Fraud, Waste, and Abuse support services, asset management functions (e.g., strategic capital investment planning, energy, management program, and enhanced-use lease program), and finance policy operations.
- Public affairs services provided by the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs (OPIA), to include interactions with the media including news releases and answering queries; Veteran outreach through both digital and traditional engagement; outreach to international, state, county, municipal, faith-based and community-based partners that interface with Veterans at the local level; outreach to tribal governments, to Pacific Islanders, and to rural Veterans; and speechwriting support to the SECVA, the Deputy Secretary and VA Chief of Staff.
Table 2: VA Contingency Plan Onboard vs. Excepted Employees by Administration or Staff Office (as of July 2023)
|Administration/ Staff Office Name||Exempt (Fully Funded)||Performing Excepted Functions – Exception Category||Total||Percent Excepted or Exempt|
|Total Onboard||Compensation is financed by other than annual appropriations||Necessary to perform activities expressly authorized by law||Necessary to perform activities necessarily implied by law||Necessary to the discharge of the President’s constitutional duties and powers||Necessary to protect life and property|
|VHA (Medical and Prosthetic Research)||4,440||0||0||0||0||2,985||2,985||67.2%|
This table is a snapshot in time and is subject to change based continual personnel actions Administrations and Staff Offices will provide updates as required prior to a potential lapse of appropriations.
Details on what functions are included in Exempt and Excepted categories can be found in table 4, Description of Exempt or Excepted Functions. The fully funded, compensation financed by other than annual appropriations column includes advance appropriations (VHA medical care, VBA Compensation and Pensions and Readjustment Benefits); multi-year appropriations (such EHRM-IO and activities supported by the Toxic Exposures Fund (TEF)), Revolving Funds (Supply Fund and Franchise fund supporting parts of OALC, OM, OIT, and others). The fully funded column does not include staff that may be financed by a limited amount of carryover funding in appropriations that have carryover authority.
Table 3: VA Functions to be Suspended by Administration or Staff Office
|Administration or Staff Office||Description of Functions to be Suspended|
|VHA||None, during a short-term period in which there is no Continuing Resolution or full-year appropriations act. If such a period continued for several weeks and multi-year funding for Research was exhausted, VHA functions that include grant-funded research projects will cease. VHA research programs will suspend during furlough.|
|VBA||Administration to include data analytics, some human resources functions, budget activities, risk management oversight, investment planning and customer support; requirements, testing, and deployment support; EHRM and interoperability support; communications to include stakeholder engagement, public contact, and VSignals service recovery; coordination and implementation of automated support tools; GAO/OIG tracking; National Call Center compliance, personalized career planning for Veterans. VBA Transition Assistance Programs (TAP) will be suspended. The Education Call Center (the GI Bill Hotline: 888-GIBILL-1 or 888-442-4551); the Native American Veterans Direct Loan program (NADL) and the Vendee loan program which offers direct loans will cease operations. Veteran outreach to include Veteran Readiness and Employment (also known as Chapter 31 or VR&E) and Personalized Career Planning and Guidance (PCPG), or VA Chapter 36 will be suspended.|
|NCA||Permanent headstone or marker installation by NCA employees; grounds maintenance (mowing, trimming, mulching or other landscape management); processing of new Presidential Memorial Certificates (PMC) or pre-need applications; and awarding of new grants as part of the Veterans Cemetery Grant Program. The National Cemetery Administration (NCA) Applicant Assistance Unit call center will be closed.|
|OIT||All IT functions that are not covered under OMB exception categories, including IT application management, enterprise portfolio management, demand management (business needs, architecture, engineering, cloud solutions, modernization applications), and the Financial Management Business Transformation Program (financial and acquisition management).|
|BVA||Audits and evaluations, health care inspections, contract reviews, quality reviews, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)/privacy processing, and knowledge management (training), administrative functions including FOIA/privacy, quality review, human resources, logistics, budget, planning, technical infrastructure, and knowledge management.|
|HRA/OSP||Department-level oversight and policy functions provided by HRA/OSP in the areas of human capital management; occupational safety and health; labor relations; personnel security and suitability; and emergency planning and training. Nearly all operational HR services for senior executives and political appointees. Nearly all VACO facilities and support services.|
|OGC||Tribunal and routine legal services for VHA, VBA, NCA and Staff Offices regarding personnel law, ethics, torts, and other legal matters not necessary for exempt or excepted functions.|
|OPIA||Public affairs interactions with the media including news releases and answering queries; Veteran outreach through both digital and traditional engagement; outreach to international, state, county, municipal, faith-based, and community-based partners that interface with Veterans at the local level; outreach to tribal governments to Pacific Islanders and to rural Veterans; and speechwriting support to the SECVA, Deputy Secretary and VA Chief of Staff.|
|OCLA||Significantly diminished Congressional relations, including delays in responding to congressional requests for information, processing testimony, hearing preparation, constituent casework, fulfilling reporting requirements and questions for the record, Congressional correspondence, GAO coordination, office administrative functions.|
|OAWP||Receiving, reviewing, and investigating allegations of misconduct, retaliation, or poor performance involving a VA senior executive; allegations of whistleblower retaliation; tracking and confirming the implementation of GAO, OIG, OMI, and OSC reports and recommendations.|
|VEO||VA.gov component management (i.e. VA Profile, VBA debt management, eBenefits, Login.gov, etc.); Veterans Experience Action Center events and support; Federal Advisory Committee activities; Veteran (VSignals) and employee (Esignals) survey configuration/management and results processing (non-VHA); customer experience consultative services (non-VHA); VA Customer Experience (CX) Institute; CX/EX engagements/training (non-VHA); #VetResources newsletter publication, performance dashboards, VEO outreach and other visual design products.|
|OEI||Strategic planning, performance management, evidence-based valuation, VA governance functions, data management, statistical analysis, and predictive modeling, including data engineering for PACT Act implementation.|
|OM||Financial and budget functions within the Office of Management, including routine operations performed by VA Chief Financial Officer, including budget formulation, oversight, and analysis; improper Payment Elimination and Recovery Act and STOP Fraud, Waste, and Abuse support services, asset management functions (e.g., strategic capital investment planning, energy management program, and enhanced-use lease program), and finance policy operations.|
|OIG||After exhausting carryover, most non-law enforcement functions would be suspended, including audits and evaluations, health care inspections, special reviews, and non-essential administrative support.|
|EHRM-IO||None, as long as multi-year funding is sufficient to maintain operations.|
|OSVA||Administrative operations, protocol, mission travel, executive correspondence support, advisory and liaison support to women and minority Veterans, and Veterans Service Organizations.|
Table 4: Description of Exempt or Excepted Functions
|Office||Description of Exempt or Excepted Functions|
|VHA||403,159 Exempt, includes
|VBA||6,612 Exempt, includes
|NCA||1,677 Excepted, includes
|OIT||499 Exempt, includes
|Board (BVA)||1,194 Excepted, includes
|HRA/OSP||650 Exempt, includes
|OALC||1,297 Exempt, includes
|OGC||161 Exempt, includes
|OPIA||1 Excepted, includes
|OCLA||2 Excepted, includes
|OAWP||2 Excepted, includes
|VEO||61 Exempt, includes
|OEI||1 Excepted, includes
|OM||1,391 Exempt, includes
|OIG||1 Exempt position, which is the VA Inspector General
|EHRM-IO||209 Exempt, includes
|OSVA||68 Exempt, includes
Appendix A: Agency Contacts During a Funding Lapse
|Role||Name||Primary Phone||Primary Email|
|Chief Human Capital Officer||Ms. Tracey Therit||202-461-0235||Tracey.Therit@va.gov|
Appendix B: VA Memorandum for Lapse of Appropriation Implementation Procedures Template
Download the VA Memorandum template. (DOCX, 31.8 KB, 5 pages)