Don Jokinen, 28, was serving in Iraq when an accident left him disabled. â??We were IED hunters; I was blown up almost five times, pretty much directly,â?? said Jokinen. â??I have lots of medical stuff--TBI, PTSD, back strain, neck and degenerative joint disease.â??
Since then he's been receiving veteran benefits, but due to the current government shutdown, there will be no money coming into his family on November 1. â??Coming up with the money, period, with the income level we're at and the little savings we do have, Iâ??ll maybe be able to make it a month,â?? Jokinen said.
And Don is just one of countless disabled veterans who wouldn't be receiving their monthly compensation. Take Vietnam veteran Don Lison, for example. Veteran benefits are his main source of income. â??The VA pension is basically two-thirds of my pay, so now I have a home payment coming up that I have no idea how Iâ??m going to make that payment,â?? said Lison.
Disabled veterans arenâ??t the only ones experiencing first-hand the effects of the shutdown. Over 7,000 Veterans Benefits Administration employees have been furloughed, which means all of the major regional offices are closed. â??That means veterans can't go to that Veterans Benefits Administration to actually apply for benefit, to check on their benefit or anything; they can't get into the building,â?? said Veteran Affairs Dickinson County officer, Chuck Lantz. This also means access to reports on benefits and claims will be brought to a standstill, and in fact, the VA is seeing over 725,000 pending benefits claims that are backlogged.
The entire situation is upsetting for many, and for others, it's a scary prospect. â??I might have to put the house up for sale,â?? Jokinen said. Don Lison said the government isnâ??t living up to their side of the contract. â??Itâ??s the first time I know that the federal government has defaulted on the promise to the vets,â?? Lison said. â??When you join, itâ??s a contract. It says you have to serve; thatâ??s part of being a citizen. Especially in my generation, we had the draft, so you didnâ??t have a choice. But the other side of the coin was if something happened to you, which in my case did, then we will take care of the problem.â??
â??We need to rise up as veterans. This cannot happen to our veterans,â?? Lantz said.