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Government Shutdown Impact on Veterans
Nearly 4 million veterans could lose their benefit payments if the government shutdown continues through the end of the month.
The Department of Veterans Affairs furloughed nearly 10,000 workers Tuesday, including many who were working overtime to help clear the 400,000 backlog of claims with over a year waiting period.
The V.A. also said it may not be able to send disability and pension benefits checks totaling around $5 billion for the month of November. The department is expected to only have benefits funding through the end of this month.
"It's my life source, it's what I live off of, it's what I eat," said Mark Becker, a Vietnam veteran. "It's what I pick up my grandchildren with, how I spend money on them, take care of them. It would change my life drastically."
Becker is just one of many wartime veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, though Becker's case is severe.
"I've been in a rage where sheriffs had to come handle me because I was out of control. That was the PTSD, that's what I have to live through and go through, and our spouses have to go through. There's been more than one incident where I had a weapon in my mouth with suicidal intent. But thoughts of my grandchildren always brought me back," said Becker.
Last year in Hampton, Virginia, Becker attended a special 60-day intensive program for veterans with PTSD sponsored by the VA. "It helped me a lot, I strongly recommend it for PTSD vets," said Becker. That course and a combination of medications has helped Becker take control of his emotions. But he still needs constant supervision, since his amnestic disorder causes him to forget simple tasks. "I may be cooking something and just forget that I left it on the stove," said Becker. Becker's trips to the psychiatrist for treatment will still be covered, since the Veteran's Health Administration is funded through the end of 2014. "Don't worry," says Dennis Mehring, public affairs officer at the VA Medical Center in Asheville. "The VA Health Admininistration, which this center is a part of, is open and running, fully operational. There's been no change in operations since shutdown began," said Mehring. Secretary Eric Shinseki was on Capitol Hill Wednesday at a hearing by the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. He told committee members that if something is not done by Nov. 1, "I will not be sending checks out." For veterans like Becker, that means Congress needs to act.
"They need to get their act together, it's time. If they can't do the job, then get out of the way. They're getting their paycheck, are we gonna get ours?"
By: Evan Donovan
Follow Evan on Twitter @EvanDonovanNews