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Local Veterans Worry About Government Shutdown

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CBS Miami (con't)

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Politicians love to love veterans, but the military heroes could be suffering some major losses due to the ongoing GOP-led government shutdown.

The people who give their time to Volunteers of America and other groups committed to helping veterans know they’re needed now–more than ever.

“We provide a combination of housing, health and training and education services,” said Janet Stringfellow, President and CEO of Volunteers of America- Florida. With or without the shutdown, we are here to serve you.”

The Government shutdown could mean the loss of pensions and education benefits to millions of veterans across South Florida and the country- especially hurting vets like Lester McKeller who relies entirely on government assistance.

“The last month I received my benefits but I don’t know about the next month, I don’t know about November…I’m already living in poverty and that would put me below that,” said McKeller.

Secretary of Veteran Affairs Eric Shinseki says the government shutdown could mean just that.

“One November, no mandatory account, 5.18 million beneficiaries do not receive checks,” he testified before a Congressional committee.

Shinseki said employees with the Veterans Benefits Administration who could lose their benefits, and possibly their paychecks would be doubly impacted.

“I would say that what is best for veterans and for all of us right now is a budget for the entire federal government.”

The one exception the shutdown impacts at this point appears to be healthcare for vets. The VA Secretary says the Veterans Health Administration which runs VA hospitals, is funded through September of next year. That means vets can still keep their doctor’s appointments, and hospital employees will still be paid.

But that doesn’t stop vets on the edge of homelessness from worrying the bickering in Washington will put them on the street.

“I think the government need to man up, put aside their personality differences and work for something for the people,” said veteran Ralph Wilkins.

“Put on their big boy britches and get this matter resolved,” added McKeller.

And until they do, they’re grateful for volunteers and non-government organizations that help them cope.

Wilkins said, “As long as they have places like this, the government can shut down all they want, we’re still gonna survive.”

Click here for the VA’s paperwork on what will be closed and open during the shutdown, including numbers to call for each relevant agency.

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