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Thursday
Jul282011

Veterans, Servicemembers Worried About Potential Default

US [dot] Army [dot] mil(WASHINGTON) -- As Congress and President Obama debate over the best solution to solve the debt crisis, servicemembers and veterans are worried about the economic impact they will face personally if the nation defaults.

“Right now, our nation teeters on the edge of default and servicemembers and veterans are left concerned and a bit scared,” Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said.  “They don't know what's going to happen Aug. 1.  They don't know what's going to happen Sept. 1.  They don't know if disability checks are coming.   They don't know if paychecks are coming.  They don't know if GI checks are coming and they're extremely concerned.  They're scared.”

“They understand generally where the debate is.  They don't understand the specifics of how it will impact them.  No one’s been able to project with any kind of certainty how they should plan for their next 60 days,” Rieckhoff continued.

Rieckhoff, who served as a platoon leader in Iraq from 2003 to 2004, said members from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America met with officials at the White House on Tuesday but did not receive guidance on how veterans and service members would be directly affected, and Rieckhoff called on Congress to look for ways to prevent a default from occurring.

“Incredible frustration, just devastating disappointment, and it's become demoralizing, not even from folks just here stateside, but overseas.  There's a guy at a checkpoint in Afghanistan right now who doesn't know for certain what's going to happen to him and his family in thirty days.  That is ridiculous, and it is outrageous, and our members are beyond upset.”

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America was founded in 2004 to aid the veterans who return from Iraq and Afghanistan.  Over 2.2 million troops have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since the start of the wars.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said veterans benefits should be “non-negotiable” in the budget negotiations.

“There is no question that we need to make smart decisions to tighten our belts and reduce our nation's debt and deficit, but no matter what fiscal crisis we face, no matter how divided we may be over approaches to cutting our debt and deficit, no matter how heated the rhetoric in Washington, D.C. gets, we must remember that we cannot balance our budget at the expense of the healthcare and benefits our veterans have earned.  Their sacrifices have been too great.  They have done everything that has been asked of them.  They have been separated from their families through repeat deployments.  They have sacrificed life and limb in combat and they have done all of this selflessly and with honor to our country and the commitment we have to them is non-negotiable,” Murray said.

Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., said Congress should reassess the funding allotted to veterans to ensure it is being used most effectively.

“We must provide the funding needed to support this generation of wounded warriors and continue caring for those who have previously borne the visible and hidden scars of war,” Brown said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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