CORVALLIS, Ore. – It’s week two of the government shutdown, and veterans are wondering if their monthly pensions will be delayed.
One veteran spent Wednesday morning in front of the Benton County Courthouse, urging the public to take action by contacting legislators to reach an agreement regarding the nation’s budget.
Donald Poole, an Air Force veteran, served in Germany and in remote Alaska in the 1960s. He waved to drivers for hours, holding a sign that read: “MY VA BENEFITS DELAYED? REALLY?”
“My VA pension is in jeopardy of being delivered on time,” Poole said.
Veterans Affairs says about 3.8 million veterans will not receive disability benefits if the government remains closed through late October. It also says over a half million surviving veterans, spouses, and dependents will see pension cuts. Poole says of all times, now is when he needs his pension the most.
“My doctor recently told me that I might have diabetes,” Poole said. “I had a stroke in 2010, and I’m on Coumadin medication. And my doctors recommended an expensive drug. A fourth of that pension income is that drug, and it’s a co-pay. It’s a very expensive drug.”
He says he gets social security benefits, and his wife gets a monthly disability check. Poole says it will still be enough to get by, but the couple will have to make huge cuts in their budget, including prescription co-pays.
“I can’t believe people can’t get together in Congress,” he said. “It’s shameful. It’s outright shameful.”
Surviving veterans say they are worried about their pensions, but Poole is also concerned about families who have lost a soldier, such as the family of 24-year-old Philomath High School graduate Cody Patterson.
“It seems unconscionable that benefits to families would be held up,” Poole said. “I just don’t understand how that could possibly be the case.”
The Pentagon said Wednesday afternoon that it made an agreement with Fisher House Foundation, which will temporarily pay for survivor benefits to families of fallen troops. The Department of Defense says it will reimburse the private foundation once the government reopens. This comes as a relief for families, but surviving veterans still are not sure when they will see their pension checks.
“I’ve received quite a few people honking and giving me the ‘hi’ sign, and that makes me stay here,” Poole said.
He says he will continue to protest in front of the courthouse until Congress reaches an agreement.