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Veterans Could Lose Benefits if Shutdown Continues

Created: 10/11/2013 6:20 PM KSTP.com
By: Katie Eldred

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- There are more than 10,000 veterans in just Olmsted County and more than half of them count on Veterans Affairs benefits. With the ongoing government shutdown much of those benefits could cease on November first.

The threat is growing all too real for area veterans.

There's been lots of conversation at the Rochester American Legion on the government shutdown.

"It's just not right and they've got to start working together," said Tom Quick.

Quick is the Rochester American Legion Commander and he says it's gotten more personal for this group as the status of veteran’s benefits become more concerning.

"These guys work too hard, and I'm not talking about myself, I'm talking about the ones that worked 20 years and the ones that were hurt over-seas," said Quick.

Nathan Pike with Olmsted County Veterans Services says if the shutdown doesn't end soon more than 5,000 veterans in Olmsted county alone could be left without their much needed VA benefits.

"Beginning on the first of November no payments for disability, no compensation or pension, no GI Bill benefits, or survivor death benefits," said Pike.

He says many of the veterans use these benefits to make ends meet and with more than 5 million potentially affected nationwide, he sure hopes congress act soon.

"Please get back to work and figure this out because there’re going to hurt a lot of veterans quickly if something doesn't get figured out," said Pike

Quick who knows too many veterans that this would affect, doesn't even want to think about what will happen if the shutdown doesn’t end soon.

"Some of those poor guys have nothing and if these benefits would go away, I don’t know, they'd die," said Quick.

Eric Shinseki the Secretary of Veterans Affairs said Wednesday that the situation is much more dire this time than it was back during the government shut down in 1996. One reason being the country at that time had not fought in a war in several years.

Today there are more than 2 million veterans that served in Afghanistan and Iraq and the veteran patient population is much older and in need of more care.

    

Nathan Pike says the concern will really grow if the shutdown is not solved by next week.