Hawaii veterans angry over possible loss of disability compensat - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hawaii veterans angry over possible loss of disability compensation

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki said if the government shutdown lasts another two weeks, next month's disability checks may not be in the mail.

"I've indicated on 1 November I will not be able to pay all these beneficiaries who are expecting those checks," he told a House panel.

"It's an insult to all the vets," retired Army Staff Sgt. Robert Kent said.

He suffers from cancer, hearing loss and post traumatic stress. He counts on his $3,000 check.

"I've got money in the savings account. But I won't be able to make out more than one month. Then I won't be able to pay my bills," he said.

Retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Henry Sonoda collects $2,300 a month for disabilities from two tours in Vietnam. He was one of several members meeting at the Disabled American Veterans organization Wednesday to share how a hold on disability checks will hurt.

"I'll be like everybody else," he said. "We will all be in a bind not having the funds for our provisions."

Last year in Hawaii VA expenditures exceeded $600 million. Almost half of it went to disability compensation and pensions.

"If you look at a yearly total it's about $270 million a year. So it's very significant impact from our perspective," State Offices of Veterans Services director Ron Han said.

Veterans can still get health care, but Shinseki told lawmakers the backlog in disability claims shot up by 2,000 since the shutdown began nine days ago.

Sonoda wonders how disabled vets will make it without their monthly money.

"I have a lot of bills. So what do you do?" he said.

"If I didn't get that I wouldn't be able to survive here in Hawaii," Kent said.

Kent and Sonoda fought for their country but this battle is out of their hands.

For information veterans are urged to call the VA Pacific Islands Healthcare Systems public affairs office at 808-433-0049.

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