Generally speaking, Americans expect to be only slightly inconvenienced by the current government shutdown. But what they might not expect is the devastating impact a prolonged shutdown will have on many of America's greatest heroes.
Testifying before Congress on Wednesday, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki warned legislators of the effect the shutdown will have on veterans should the political stalemate continue. Shinseki says that some 3.8 million veterans will not receive disability checks if the shutdown remains in effect beyond October. And this massive number does not include the 365,000 survivors, 1,200 children with birth defects and 315,000 retired veterans who will also not be receiving their checks in November.
As an American and a third generation military veteran, I find this all to be callous and infuriating.
Our veterans and their families are the hidden victims of the government economic shutdown. I know so many veterans who rely on their monthly disability pay just to make ends meet. Many more rely on basic health services to get through their PTSD and other issues of war, but will find those services curtailed. Wounded Warriors seeking to have their disabilities documented and treated will have to wait. This is outrageous treatment of those who selflessly answered the clarion call of their country to defend our freedoms. America owes them far better than this.
The transition of military to civilian life can be stressful under the best of circumstances. But to place a financial burden on top of the emotional stress of reentry-not to mention the complications caused by the physical injuries so many bring back from combat¬-is more than we should ever ask of those who served and sacrificed to protect our freedom.
In the Bible, Jesus said that to be first in God's kingdom, we must be the servant of all. For America to be great, we must have the courage and commitment to make the care for our national servants, our veterans, one of our highest priorities. Our veterans served our nation. Now it is time for us to serve them. It is time to press Congress to resolve the standoff and end the government shutdown.
Pace's military career included posts in Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Leavenworth, Kan.; and Fort Jackson, S.C., as well as Germany and Korea. After taking a position at the Pentagon, Pace's work included ministry to 9/11 survivors.