(CNN) — No checks? No worries.
Or for some veterans, at least not as many worries, for a while.
Nearly 40,000 U.S. veterans wounded on or after September 11, 2001, will each get a $500 check to help their families even if deadlocked Washington cannot not find a deal to resolve the partial government shutdown, one of the nation’s largest veterans service groups promised Tuesday.
Steve Nardizzi, executive director of Florida-based Wounded Warrior Project, announced on CNN’s “AC360″ the organization will spend $20 million providing wounded veterans with stipend checks should their disability benefits not be issued by the federal government, which is still deeply entrenched in a bitter partisan standoff 15 days after the shutdown began. He did not specify when the checks would be sent.
Testifying before the House Veterans Affairs Committee last week, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki warned that if the shutdown continues, on November 1, the agency will not be able to pay all of its 3.8 million beneficiaries, far outnumbering WWP’s 40,000, who are counting on their checks. The payments would amount to $6.25 billion in compensation and pensions, survivor benefits, educational vocational rehabilitation and employment benefits, Shinseki said.
“I need the authorization, appropriations and a budget to be able to do that,” he told committee members. “Let us get back to work. The sooner we do it the faster I get back up to full speed.”
Also at risk are some 435,000 veterans in the VA’s disability claims backlog who will now have to wait longer for their applications to be handled because the agency has stopped paying overtime to processors who were trying to cut the backlog.
WWP’s announcement came as nearly 100 veterans from a coalition of the nation’s leading veterans and uniformed services organizations made their angry push Tuesday at Washington’s National World War II Memorial to end the shutdown.
Former Army Capt. Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, pointed his frustration at what he considered a politically insolvent Congress.
“Inside the Beltway, this is a game to them — they’re scoring points, they’re poll testing what they’re saying. Outside of the Beltway, these are people’s lives,” he said.