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Veterans, Military Families, and the Government Shutdown

In our last post we asserted that, even amid the incivility and intractability of partisan gridlock over the government shutdown, at least both sides had agreed to fund active duty military personnel. But while it is true that American soldiers will continue to be paid, that fact alone does not tell the whole story of how the shutdown is impacting troops, veterans, and military families.

CBS News is reporting today on comments made by Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki that if the shutdown continues even until the later part of October, 3.8 million veterans will not receive disability compensation in November, and 315,000 veterans and 202,000 surviving spouses and dependents will see pension payments stopped. And it is reporting that already, the government shutdown has stalled the department’s efforts to reduce the backlog of disability claims pending for longer than 125 days.

Veterans, Military Families, and the Government Shutdown

Moreover, ABC News reports that because of the shutdown, the Pentagon has been unable to pay death benefits to the families of soldiers killed in combat in Afghanistan. Once the shutdown ends, explains Bob Hale, Pentagon Comptroller, the processing will begin and the payments will be made — but they will be delayed.

What this means is that the families of five soldiers slain since October 1 will be unable to travel to Dover Air Force Base in Connecticut to witness the return of their loved ones’ bodies. And that they will not receive the $100,000 check meant to offset the financial hardship incurred by those deaths.

According to FOX News, the Fisher House Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to caring for veterans and military families, has stepped forward to cover death benefits for the families of troops who’ve been killed in combat.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has called the Pentagon’s failure to pay appalling. Speaker of the House John Boehner has called it disgraceful. And Senator John McCain has asked: Shouldn’t we be ashamed?

Now, if only there were so much agreement on ending the government shutdown that has created this problem in the first place.

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