Government shutdown puts thousands of SF veterans' benefits at risk

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Veterans stand to lose if the government shutdown continues
Photo courtesy of Bobby Hollingsworth
Bobby Hollingsworth, a CID investigator for the US Army, poses for a photo while deployed in Korea. Hollingsworth is one of thousands of Bay Area veterans who may lose out on benefits.

More than 7,000 employees in Veterans Benefits Administration offices nationwide were furloughed today (Tues/8), the newest casualty of the federal government shutdown.

As the Republicans in Washington hold the nation hostage over President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, federal employees are leaving their offices in droves. Now the veterans who rely on the federal government for healthcare and education checks have nothing to do but wait on word of their uncertain futures. 

The furlough of veterans benefits workers comes at an especially awful time as they struggle to meet an enormous backlog of health benefit claims, revealed this year by the Berkeley-based Center for Investigative Reporting.

“VA’s ability to make significant progress reducing the disability claims backlog is hampered without the increased productivity gained from overtime for claims processors,” the Veterans Benefits Administration said in a statement released today. The agency has reduced the disability claims backlog by more than 190,000 claims over the last six months, it wrote.  

But even worse, it said that if the government shutdown persists into late October there would be no funding available to supply veterans with their November support checks -- money many rely on for rent and food.

"In the event of a prolonged shutdown, claims processing and payments in these programs would be suspended when available funding is exhausted," the office wrote in a release.

San Francisco has veterans of many stripes who depend on federal benefits: Students paying tuition, ex-soldiers getting housing benefits, the disabled seeking health care, all would be left without support.

The loss can be felt keenly at City College of San Francisco, where the employees of its pioneering Veterans’ Resource Center wait in fear of Nov. 1. 

 “With the government shutdown we’re going to have a massive amount of people coming in asking questions,” said Adam Harris, a student worker at CCSF’s Veterans’ Resource Center. The 25-year-old is a veteran himself, and served in the Navy for six years as a petty officer second class in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay.  

“If people aren’t paid on the first when they’re expected to you get a wave of people asking ‘where’s my money at?’” he said. The GI Bill pays for full tuition for student veterans who have completed their service, and those still serving. But it’s not just tuition. 

“It’s pretty much a living allowance,” he said. In addition to tuition the the GI Bill pays for housing, food and living expenses. City College of San Francisco alone has over 1,200 student veterans according to their own data, many of whom attend full time. 

The state community college chancellor’s office, which oversees California’s 112 community colleges, said the loss of benefits would be dire for its student veterans.

“Should this come about, our student veterans would be left without education benefits and basic housing allowances,” said Paul Feist, a spokesperson for the Community College Chancellor’s office.  “It’s probably safe to assume that many student veterans would be forced to drop out of school should this occur.”

They noted that the VA's educational benefits hotline is inaccessible during the government shutdown, cutting off a vital counseling service as student veterans navigate their tuition payments.

The CA Community College Chancellor's Office most recent data shows that as of the 2011-12 school year, there were over 44,000 community college student veterans receiving benefits statewide, many of whom are in the Bay Area. All would be affected. 

Rachel Maddow announcing the shutdown of veteran benefits offices, which give advice and aid for veterans seeking help with their education, lhousing and health benefits.

Student at the state level colleges will fare no better, though, and there are just over 700 student veterans at San Francisco State University, according to their website. The head of SFSU’s veterans center, Rogelio Manaois, said that his office was sending regular updates to SFSU students and that they were prepared for the possible delay of benefits.

Notably not all veterans depend on the GI Bill to live. Some vets the Guardian spoke to at City College said that they had part time jobs and would not be in hardship if there were a drop in payments. Also, the VA Medical Center in the Outer Richmond announced on its website that it will not be affected by the government shutdown. Not all veterans are in the same boat, however.

Bobby Hollingsworth served as a Criminal Investigations Divisions investigator in the US Army from 1999 to 2010. Though he’s now a graduate of SFSU, he and his family depend on disability payments from the VA to live. 

Hollingsworth injured his his leg in basic training, and the repeated stress through the years required multiple surgeries that he never fully recovered from. His disability payments also cover PTSD, as through his decade of service he spent over a year listening to the explosions of mortar shells peppering his Containerized Housing Unit in Iraq. 

He remembers those days vividly.

“I heard commotion and opened my door and looked up and to the side of our CHU’s. The sky was lit up like a scene in Star Wars” he said. “We got hit with seven mortars that night and a few airmen were rushed to the hospital with unknown injuries. We just never really followed up on those things. At the time maybe we thought best not to know.”

To say he earned his benefits is an understatement, he said, and the same goes for all of his fellow Veterans. 

As a documentary filmmaker, he is investigating other Veterans who have been denied their education benefits. Now the government shutdown may delay Hollingsworth’s payments as well. 

His wife depends on them for college, he said, and without his disability payments he may be unable to make his first mortgage payment on their new house. His wife and four-year-old son will be fine for now, he said, but if the payments are delayed for long he’ll be worried.

“I can hold out for a month because of emergency savings and the food bank,” he said. “But by December, it will be a nightmare.”

Yesterday the VA posted their "Veterans Field Guide to Government Shutdown," which can be read here.  

Comments

Shutdowns are SUPPOSED to hurt. That is the point. That is what is so frustrating by this SELF MADE GOP crisis.

Some 'patriots' they turned out to be. Bunch of dangerous phoneys.

Only ONE party has the ability to open Government this minute if they WANT TO. And it isn’t the Democrats.

I almost ENVY future history students reading and studying about the great GOP MANUFACTURED crisis of 2013 and how it did so much short and long term damage to the American People who had just started climbing out of the last economic hole they were thrown into.

Posted by Chas Holman on Oct. 08, 2013 @ 7:16 pm

this crisis is being caused by both parties together

for the last two decades they have *pretended* to fight with each other, and used that fake fight as a manufactured excuse to cut social programs to the bone

this is a game of good cop - bad cop

and the liberals who believe that the Democrats are trying to help them

are the suckas

Posted by racer x on Oct. 08, 2013 @ 9:21 pm

Everything that goes on is a plot, the parties are in cohoots, one party expands social programs like the Obama care, but its all a plot, both parties want to cut social programs to the bone in manufactured plots, no one takes me racer x seriously anywhere I go, but I know all about the plots, they are everywhere, everywhere I go I see them.

Posted by racer-x/glenparkdaddy/trolltroll/obsesseroverfelatioofcops on Oct. 08, 2013 @ 9:41 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

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proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 08, 2013 @ 9:57 pm
Posted by Guest on Oct. 10, 2013 @ 6:38 am

this is simply a troll barrier

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proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 08, 2013 @ 9:57 pm

Racer, partisans don't wake up. They keep being partisans and repeating endless excuses to those who disagree no matter how putrid the stench. They keep doing the same thing over and over again.

"and the liberals who believe that the Democrats are trying to help them
are the suckas"

Yes, as usual, and many of them love to be used as ATM machines for any big business parasite with a D beside their name. (Same goes for the Republicans).

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 2:18 am
Posted by racer x on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 8:26 am

I went to a conference in Vegas, and we were going to go visit some national parks in Utah afterwards. But everything we were going to see is closed due to the shutdown. So we cancelled that leg of the trip, cancelled our accommodations, cancelled the flights, etc. Our trip is ruined, and money won't be getting pumped into local businesses. Now multiply that by hundreds of thousands (Zion alone is turning away 10,000 people per day), and you begin to get an idea of how much damage this temper tantrum is doing.

And for what? All because a few nutbags don't want to other people to get healthcare. I don't understand these people.

Posted by Greg on Oct. 08, 2013 @ 8:58 pm

this crisis is being caused by both parties together

for the last two decades they have *pretended* to fight with each other, and used that fake fight as a manufactured excuse to cut social programs to the bone

this is a game of good cop - bad cop

and the liberals who believe that the Democrats are trying to help them

are the suckas

and by the way

did it occur to you that, since the government is shut down, there is no one there to police the parks to keep people out

you could have just walked in

that's what i did

and no one stopped me....

Posted by racer x on Oct. 08, 2013 @ 9:25 pm

I agree that the two-party duopoly represents two sides of the same coin. I've made that critique myself. America is not a democracy, because in terms of the basic economic and foreign policy direction of this country, there is basically no choice. That said, some wings of the oligarchy are worse than others. The Democrats are corrupt, they serve their corporate masters. But the Republicans take evil and inhumanity to new heights.

As to your second point, I heard they actually do have police patrols at the trails. The park roads are open if and only if they're through roads, but the trails are not. I don't know which national park you walked into, but I didn't want to risk driving from Vegas to see if I could sneak into Zion, Bryce, and the Grand Canyon. The roads into the latter two would almost surely be blocked because they only go into the park, and if I went through the barricade, mine would be the only car in the park. How long do you think it would be before I would be ticketed/towed/arrested, etc.? ...no, not a practical solution.

Posted by Greg on Oct. 08, 2013 @ 10:10 pm

parties in DC would not be so fundamentally opposed as they are.

There is a massive rift between the Dem's, who just want to tax, borrow and spend more, and the GOP who want some fiscal restraint. We cannot keep on running deficits of over a trillion a year, nor a national debt that is approaching 20 trillion.

Yet all the dem's do is say that they "won't negotiate" on anything, and they want to carry on down this road to inevitable national bankruptcy.

You can only possibly see the Dem's and the GOP as the same if you are so elft-wing that it appears that way to you.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 3:50 am

It's a spat between two capitalist, imperialist wings of essentially the same oligarchy. The Chinese Communist Party has internal disagreements too -one even led to tanks in the streets in 1989. That doesn't mean it's not a one-party state. Are both of our parties capitalist? Yes. Do both support an aggressive, imperialist foreign policy? Yes. One wing wants to beat up on gays and brown people more; one is a little bit more fiscally responsible than the other (that would be the Democrats, who tend to reduce deficits), but essentially they're two sides of the same coin. In terms of the basic direction of the country, in terms of the really big issues of economic and foreign policy, the differences are minor.

A democracy is a nation where people have a real choice on the big issues. Take Venezuela for instance. That, is what a democracy looks like. There is a real difference between the opposition and the ruling coalition. The elections are fair and free, and people have a real choice.

But if you really believe this is a "democracy," then you should be on the side of the Democrats. We did, after all, have several referenda on Obamacare. It was passed by congress. The right wing lost. It was litigated at the Supreme Court. The right wing lost. There was a presidential election where one candidate promised to repeal it, and the other promised to continue it. The right wing lost. The Democrats already compromised. Obamacare is a compromise that goes 90% in the direction of what the far right wanted. Instead of socialized medicine like they have in most civilized countries, we got some minor insurance reforms that get rid of a few of their most egregious crimes, like pre-existing conditions and recision. That is a big deal, but it leaves the whole criminal enterprise known as private insurance basically in place. Now, the lunatic fringe wants to scrap even that compromise, and they're willing to shut the government down to do it. Fortunately, according to the polling, most Americans aren't buying it.

Posted by Greg on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 7:48 am

(greg, it would be really helpful in cutting down on their stupid crap -that **no one** who reads the guardian believes- if you would just not waste your time and energy responding to it)

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

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Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 8:31 am

healthcare - Obama did not stand on that in 2008;. He stood on a platform that included some "reform" of healthcare and that is what we got. Even the Senate Democrats rejected the "public option".

In fact, I voted for Obama in 2008 but would not have done so if I thought we were going to throw out all the existing provisions and replace it with bureaucracies.

Insofar as ObamaCare had support, it was people who thought they were going to get something for nothihg - some form of "free" healthcare. I am 100% opposed to free healthcare because we cannot afford it.

Anyway, this shutdown is only partly about ObamaCare. It's mostly about out-of-control deficits, debts, and spending. The GOP think we should prune spending and the Dem's do not. I do not see how you can possibly see the GOP at being at fault for wanting to control the deficit.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 10:18 am

(comment ludicrously claiming clown ass Republicans are the good guys, gonged)

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 8:34 am

"The Democrats are corrupt, they serve their corporate masters. But the Republicans take evil and inhumanity to new heights."

All of that can be said about BOTH of these big business parties. There is no need to single one out as superior to the other. They are both rot. Just one example: I find droning innocent people "evil" and "inhumane" and the current occupant of the White House has done that and is continuing to do that and he doesn't have a R behind his name.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 5:51 am
Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 7:20 am

please explain just how exactly your brainless comment holds water

Posted by racer x on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 8:39 am

1/3 of the Senate. So if you do not like those in Congress, vote them out rather than whine about them.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 10:10 am

Bootlicker,

Most people vote for these parasites based on name recognition, partisan allegiance (the D or R beside their name) and because the parasites are on television going through their good cop bad cop routine. Most people don't have any clue what most of them have done politically (their voting record) because they don't pay attention. They just mindlessly vote for them and that's how the parasites stay in office. I thought most people already knew this.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 3:55 pm

he's just feeding you troll bait to get you to react

Posted by racer x on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 4:02 pm

people are stupid?

So what system do you prefer?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 4:22 pm

They're both pretty vile, but to say there's no difference is not exactly accurate.

As Gore Vidal once said, "In America, we have two parties. One is conservative. The other is reactionary."

Posted by Greg on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 7:29 am

The Dem position is that they refuse to negotiate.

So how can the problem be anything other than caused by the Dem's?

Moreover, the House is the most democratic part of the Government. Yet you want them to have no say?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 7:45 am

In 2009 there were negotiations. The Republicans got 90% of what they wanted. Both houses had their say. The lunatics "lost," but only in the sense that they didn't get 100% of what they wanted. They got 90%. They passed a minor tweak of the laws governing insurance companies (which nevertheless will save some lives because they have to cover some people with preconditions now and can't arbitrarily rescind their coverage). Then the Republicans litigated. They lost. Then they ran in the 2012 election on repealing what little they gave up. They lost again a third time. Even loony right-winger John McCain says you can't keep throwing a tantrum every time you lose and hold the government hostage over something that's already been voted on an decided. When John "Bomb Iran" McCain is the voice of reason, you know we've really gone off the deep end.

Posted by Greg on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 8:06 am

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 8:47 am

We had the sequester crisis, then the fiscal cliff crisis, now the budget crisis and, next week, the debt ceiling crisis. The GOP are saying we cannot keep kicking the can down the road on federal spending. The Dem's seem to think we can.

That might be something worth shutting the government down for. Clearly Obama thinks so as he is the one refusing to negotiate.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 10:20 am

(another ludicrously laughable comment claiming Republicans are the good guys, gonged)

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 8:41 am

(absurd comment claiming that republicans are the only problem - and a response unnecessarily inviting another troll reply from the peanut gallery, gonged)

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 8:45 am

subsidized trip to a national park, I am not going to weep for that.

Could you really not find a more favorably sympathetic example of the harm that the shutdown is causing?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 3:47 am

Don't you feel bad for the poor businesses which don't make money?

Posted by Greg on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 7:25 am

bitching about business while enjoying perks like trips to Vegas on your employer's dime.

Hypocrite much?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 7:35 am

You assume that I don't own my own business, and that the conference was paid for my employer. I said no such thing.

But seriously, you love private business. Don't you feel sorry for all the poor businesses losing money?

Posted by Greg on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 7:52 am

(and certainly not a large business owner) as you appear to lack the sense of economic reality that is necessary in business but usually lacking in those who get paid by others.

Maybe a IT contractor.

Even if you have no boss, you have a customer. either way, do you tell them about your anti-business views? Or keep prudently quiet?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 8:04 am

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 8:52 am

My personal situation is irrelevant. My views stand on their own.

My sense of the "economic reality," is that all the hotels, restaurants, rental car companies, supply stores, etc. that I and literally millions of people around the country would have visited but now won't, are hurt, not helped, by the Republican shutdown.

As someone who has such a self-professed grasp of the economic reality of being a business owner, perhaps you can help me answer a simple question:

When your customer base is devastated for a couple weeks, does this help or hurt your economic reality?

Posted by Greg on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 8:56 am

estimated to reduce the GDP this quarter, so far, by 0.2%.

But it is not a "Republican shutdown" because the GOP have been consistently willing to negotiate. It is Obama who refuses to talk to the GOP even while he is talking to the Iranians. What's wrong with that picture?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 10:12 am

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 11:41 am

this is simply a troll barrier

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the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 8:48 am

(greg, arguing with trolls, because he is a conflict addicted troll himself, gonged)

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

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Obama is refusing to sign into law any change in the accumulation of deficits and debts that is spiraling out of control. On what planet does that make any sense.

Of course there will be some suffering here, and you have carefully cherry-picked one (veterans) that you think the right will sympathize with as well.

But the real culprit is the insane cost of the entitlement programs and, until we tackle those, everything and everyone else will suffer. We cannot borrow our way out of debt.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 3:53 am

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 8:53 am
Posted by barrier man on Oct. 10, 2013 @ 9:12 am

Just another Obamanation travisty

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 10:25 am

Another Obamanation travesty

Posted by Claptrap on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 10:26 am

I am a veteran my self, a disabled veteran, I depend every month on the disability check
I think that the government shut down that affects so many people including disabled veterans is discus-ting
How am i going to pay my rent at the month of November,
How am i going to eat for the month of November
How am i going to pay for Car expenses for the month of November

When i got int to the military I swore to defend the constitution and to fight for my country and to die for my country wile fighting if necessary

Is this the way the government is paying me back
i do not see any politicians in Washington dc to fight for my pay check after i got out for the service with a disability

Posted by David Davidson on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 11:09 am

I am a veteran my self, a disabled veteran, I depend every month on the disability check
I think that the government shut down that affects so many people including disabled veterans is discus-ting
How am i going to pay my rent at the month of November,
How am i going to eat for the month of November
How am i going to pay for Car expenses for the month of November

When i got int to the military I swore to defend the constitution and to fight for my country and to die for my country wile fighting if necessary

Is this the way the government is paying me back
i do not see any politicians in Washington dc to fight for my pay check after i got out for the service with a disability

Posted by David Davidson on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 11:11 am

all payments, as is Social Security, Section * housing vouchers, food stamps, medicaid and medicare payments.

To suggest otherwise is needlessly worrying people.

All kinds of other government staff deemed vital are also working e.g. the military, coastguard, border guards and ICE, air traffic control and so on.

The ones not working are the bureaucrats and, for the most part, nobody has really noticed that they have stopped, which makes you wonder what they are doing and why we need them.

What will happen at VA is that changes and inquiries might take longer to resolve. But the checks will continue and it is disingenuous of SFBG to suggest otherwise.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 11:29 am

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