Trump's Shutdown Is Officially Hurting the Troops - Rolling Stone
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Trump’s Shutdown Is Officially Hurting the Troops

Tuesday marked the first time in American history active-duty servicemembers haven’t been paid due to a government shutdown

Cadets take the Oath of Office during commencement for the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, ConnCoast Guard Academy Pence, New London, USA - 23 May 2018

Cadets take the Oath of Office during commencement for the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT.

Jessica Hill/AP/REX/Shutterstock

There’s no end in sight for the longest government shutdown in American history. President Trump and congressional Democrats have dug in to the point that some senior Republicans close to the White House have said the only way it’s ending is through some sort of external disaster, like TSA employees refusing to come to work. As Trump continues to clamor for border wall funding — he tried to make his case Wednesday morning by tweeting a Lou Dobbs statistic about how 800 miles of wall have been built in Europe since 2015 — 800,000 federal employees are still without their paychecks. Included among them are 42,000 active-duty members of the Coast Guard, who were informed Tuesday that they would not be getting paid despite having worked through the shutdown.

“Today you will not be receiving your regularly scheduled paycheck,” wrote Admiral Karl Schultz. “To the best of my knowledge, this marks the first time in our Nation’s history that servicemembers in a U.S. Armed Force have not been paid during a lapse in appropriations.”

The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines are unaffected as the budget for the Department of Defense has already been approved, but the Coast Guard operates under the Department of Homeland Security, which is currently without funding. “You have proven time and time again the ability to rise above adversary,” Schultz added. “Stay the course, stand watch, and serve with pride. You are not, and will not, be forgotten.”

Though Schultz instructed Coast Guard members to stay strong, the Trump administration hasn’t paid much mind to those who haven’t been paid as a result of the shutdown. The president has dismissed those affected as mostly Democrats, while at the same time claiming they are comfortable not being paid so long as it means a border wall will be funded. Kevin Hassett, Trump’s chief economic adviser, told PBS that furloughed workers are “better off” because they don’t have to use their vacation days. It’s unlikely the Coast Guard families organizing food drives agree.

Though the Coast Guard is the only branch of the military not receiving pay, the lapse in funding is having a disproportionate affect on veterans. Last week, the non-partisan Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) called for an end to the shutdown, citing the overlarge impact on veterans. “One third of federal workers are veterans even though just 10% of the U.S. population are federal employees,” wrote the organization. “Based on Office of Personnel Management data, about 155,000 veterans work at the agencies affected by the shutdown. And of those veterans, nearly 50,000 have VA disability ratings. Veterans are already a vulnerable population, and this partial government shutdown can cause severe financial hardship for veterans–which sadly, often means mental health woes and potential for mental health crisis in our community, where we struggle with alarming suicide rates.”

IAVA founder Paul Rieckhoff placed the onus on Trump, who has based much of his political image on taking care of servicemembers. “The President can end this tomorrow,” wrote Rieckhoff. “And he should. As our Commander-in-Chief, we need him to prioritize our needs above politics. Now and always.”

Trump has rebuffed pleas from Democrats and Republicans alike to temporarily re-open the government so that federal workers can be paid while border security is negotiated. “I would urge him to open up the government for a short period of time, like three weeks, before he pulls the plug,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Fox News on Sunday. “See if we can get a deal. If we can’t at the end of three weeks, all bets are off. See if he can do it by himself through the emergency powers.”

The president wasn’t interested. “I did reject it,” he said of Graham’s suggestion on Monday. “I want to get it solved. I don’t want to just delay it.” A day later, the Trump administration ordered nearly 50,000 furloughed federal employees to return to work without being paid.

Though Coast Guard members are among the federal employees who have been working without paychecks, help could be on the way. On January 4th, the Pay Our Coast Guard Act was introduced into Congress with bipartisan support. The bill would ensure that Coast Guard members are paid throughout the shutdown, but it has yet to pass. In the meantime, Admiral Schultz announced Tuesday that Coast Guard Mutual Assistance received a $15 million donation from the USAA to help support those going without pay. “We are prepared to assist around 22,000 members of the Coast Guard workforce, with approximately $15 million in support,” CGMA CEO Cari Thomas told the Military Times“We wish we could do more, but we will do all we can do.

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