Posted at: 10/11/2013 8:55 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4
New Mexico military veterans are hoping for a quick solution to the deadlock in Congress that has caused the federal government shutdown. That’s because the Veterans Administration revealed this week that it won’t be able to pay more than $6 billion in benefits on Nov. 1.
We are talking about more than five million Americans here, thousands of them living in New Mexico. Many of them live on that monthly check from the VA. It’s pensions for military retirees, GI Bill money for veterans in college, and compensation for disabled veterans, many of them wounded in combat.
VA Hospitals and health care remain in operation, but the 8,000 or so VA employees who handle the benefits system are on furlough. Work has stopped on more than 250,000 disability claims.
We met Jim Stanek in Rio Rancho Friday morning. He’s a disabled vet – four tours with the Army in Iraq – wounded with a brain injury.
“It’s like we’re just a pawn at this point in time, in a chess game, just kicked to the side,” Stanek said. “It doesn’t matter to them how we feel, how it impacts us. It doesn’t just impact me. It impacts my wife, my son. It impacts the whole community out here. What if I miss house payments? What if I lose my house?”
Stanek is far from alone. Groups like AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Veterans of Foreign Wars have warned Congress that failure to pass a full VA budget “is already causing real harm” to veterans and their families.
“I STILL BELIEVE IN THE RED WHITE AND BLUE,” Stanek said. “I believe that our government will do the right thing. It should’ve happened last week!”