How a Shutdown Impacts the Military and Veterans

Combat Training in Germany May 2007. Soldiers provide security after dismounting a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. Photo by Gary L. Kieffer.
Combat Training in Germany May 2007. Soldiers provide security after dismounting a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. Photo by Gary L. Kieffer.
TAMPA (2010-4-8) -

Military pay will be directly affected by a federal government shutdown. For most military personnel, a shutdown means next week’s paycheck will be half the normal amount. And there will be no more paychecks until Congress passes Continuing Resolution Act appropriations.

The Defense Finance and Accounting Service has a five-page summary of how the government shutdown impacts military pay.

“We’re trying to not get too excited about it because worrying about it ahead of time does no good,” said Army spouse Angie Smith who lives on MacDill Air Force Base with her husband, Army SSG Rob Smith, and five children.

The Smiths have been a military family for 12 years which accounts for their steady approach. Angie Smith said the reduced paycheck will cover their immediate bills and she is praying and has faith that Congress will act before the next pay period.

But, she acknowledged that’s not the case for some military spouses she's encountered on Facebook. “They’re freaking out,” Smith said. “They’re very worried and upset. I think a lot of them are hearing misinformed information. They don’t know the facts.”

One proactive step Smith took was to check with her credit union which is offering to cover the April 15th pay check for active-duty military with direct deposit and other contingency plans for military personnel.

Army wife Kendal Rhoades of St. Petersburg is a fulltime student, works two jobs but said in the short term she’ll be okay.

“We don’t have children, but my big concern are the families out there that have two and three children and the women that are pregnant and their husbands are deployed,” Rhoades said. “What are they going to do?”

She’s been monitoring news about the shutdown on cable television and following comments on Facebook pages for Army wives.

“A lot of girls are getting more concerned the more we talk about it on Facebook and online,” Rhoades said. “In my opinion, I think it’s great to have other girls out there and to have this network.”

Associated Press reports that a shutdown could delay death benefits for military families that have lost a loved one. Payments to military retirees, however, will not be affected because their checks come from a trust fund.

What it means for Veterans

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has released a guide on which veteran’s services will continue and which will cease. The VA stressed that all veteran’s medical facilities such as the Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa will remain open and fully operational. Appointments will be unaffected by the shutdown. Veterans also will receive benefits such as pension checks and education benefit checks.

The VA will reduce its staff during a shutdown, so existing benefits claims may take longer to process and the national VA hotline will no longer be available. And no new benefits claims will be processed during a shutdown.

A comprehensive guide to veteran’s services affected by a government shutdown is available on the official Department of Veterans' Affairs website.

Active Duty Shutdown Guidance

In the event of a government shutdown, military personnel still report for duty, though they may experience delays receiving their pay. All activities in support of national security such as operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Japan, and Libya will continue, said Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn.

Many on-base support services will still be available to military members and their families.Department of Defense Medical treatment facilities will remain open for inpatient and emergency outpatient care, as well as emergency dental care.
Dining facilities will stay open and child-care activities will continue.

Army and Air Force Exchanges (AAFES) will remain open on military bases stateside and abroad. Some legal activities will remain available. Department of Defense Education Activity schools will stay open. More information about the possible government shutdown can be found on the Department of Defense website.

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