Some Veterans Affairs Beneficiaries Will Receive Notification Letters Late Due to Printing Delays
VA and Government Publishing Office attribute the slow-down to labor shortages and the supply chain crisis.
At least one federal agency is experiencing printing and mailing delays due to supply chain issues and staffing shortages.
A vendor contracted by the Government Publishing Office that provides services for the Veterans Affairs Department is experiencing delays in printing and mailing notification letters to veterans and claimants about their benefits “due to supply chain and staffing shortages,” the VA announced on Tuesday. “The disruption may impact the ability of some claimants to meet required deadlines via written correspondence with VA.” As a result, the Veterans Benefits Administration is extending the deadline for certain claimants and forgoing adverse actions if they do not respond.
Government Executive reached out to GPO to ask if this issue affected services at any other agencies and if this staffing shortage is due to any COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
“GPO has several federal agency customers, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, that print and mail materials that require special handling because of the sensitivity of the information in those documents,” Gary Somerset, chief public relations officer at GPO, replied. “Currently, there are only a handful of commercial printing and mailing vendors that can meet those security standards.”
He added that, “The printing industry, like other manufacturing sectors, is experiencing skilled labor and supply shortages that continue to affect their ability to meet our customers' delivery expectations.” Therefore, “GPO is working closely with all of our federal agency customers to mitigate backlogs and bolster production capacity.”
When asked who those agency customers were, Somerset said for security reasons GPO would have to work with them to see what they would be comfortable sharing. Government Executive also asked for vendor names, but he did not respond by the time of this article’s publication.
As for the VA, Government Executive asked for any numbers to shed light on the issue such as how many claimants officials expect to be impacted and how long these delays could last, as well as if the staffing shortages are a result of vaccine mandates?
A VA spokesperson said on Wednesday they could not respond by the time of this article’s publication, but would try to provide information as soon as possible.
While neither agency has yet to give a reason for the labor shortages, there have been concerns overall about how the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates could lead to labor shortages and thus worsen the supply chain crisis.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration vaccine rule for private businesses, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services vaccine mandate for health care workers and federal contractor mandates have either been partially or completely blocked on a temporary basis.
During the briefing on October 8, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked about concerns from the unions representing FedEx, UPS, and DHL on this, which was before the Biden administration pushed back the deadline for federal contractors to get vaccinated. Psaki denied the mandate would be an issue.
Also, the White House has been taking various actions to address the supply chain challenges in all sectors and has been touting the recently passed $1.2 trillion infrastructure package as a remedy.