WASHINGTON –A coalition of more than 30 military organizations representing more than 5.5 million active duty and retired servicemen, veterans, dependents and survivors descended on the World War II Memorial Tuesday morning to call for an end to the government shutdown.
“They have my back,” Military Coalition president Herb Rosenbleeth said of the gathered representatives from organizations comprising the coalition. “Unlike the administration and Congress, which doesn’t have my back.”
“As we stand here the government is shutdown military readiness is eroding, disabled veterans fear they will not be getting checks, dependents and survivors have that worry. That shouldn’t be,” he added.
According to Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the gathering represented an “unprecedented showing of strength.”
“We don’t need promises, we don’t need rhetoric, we need results,” Rieckhoff told The Daily Caller. “Speaker Boehner and the President need to get in a room and work this out. That’s what we do on the battlefield, we work things out and put the mission first, that is what they need to do now. This is devastating the military and veterans community”
Representatives from a number of the gathered groups offered accounts of how the shutdown has been hurting their members, military readiness and morale as units continue to need supplies and training.
“I stress with each passing day of the shutdown the readiness of our fighting force becomes more at risk and those serving our nation deserve better than this,” Morgan Brown, manager of military and government relations at the Air Force Sergeants Association.
Garry Augustine, executive director of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), noted that if the government remains closed through October, more than 4 million veterans might not receive their disability compensation, pension payments or GI bill payments in November.
He added that the stalemate has served to exacerbate the already large veterans’ disability claims backlog.
“Our message to the president and Congress: Defaulting on paying veterans benefits is not option,” Augustine said.
“Veterans are a national priority, it is time that our government treat them as one,” he added.
The American Legion’s Steve Gonzalez said he was outraged that veterans have been made to turn to charities rather than government programs for things like job training and transitioning into civilian life.