A non-profit group that helps those wounded in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars says that if the government shutdown results in cutting off VA compensation benefits, it will send out $20 million to some 40,000 young veterans it has assisted in the past.
The decision announced Tuesday by Florida-based Wounded Warrior Project is among the largest initiatives by a private group or individuals to cover unmet needs in the wake of the government shutdown Oct. 1.
"You're hearing (from veterans) a lot of fear, and you're hearing a lot of anger and frustration," says Steven Nardizzi, a co-founder and the executive director of Wounded Warrior Project.
Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki told Congress last week that if the shutdown continues through the end of October, the VA will not be able to send out Nov. 1 monthly checks totaling $6.25 billion to more than 5 million beneficiaries, including nearly 4 million veterans.
Nardizzi says the money his group would provide, if necessary, to 40,000 veterans is admittedly modest — $500, enough to cover some basic needs.
But, he added, "we had to do more than just a call to action. We had to do everything we could to provide support to those families."
He said many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have a complex array of disabilities that include amputations, spinal injuries, brain injury and emotional issues. Many are receiving benefits for more than one disability and rely heavily on a VA compensation check amounting to several thousand dollars the first of each month, he says.
"You have folks who are dealing with mental health issues who are concerned about am I going to be able to feed my family at the end of the month," Nardizzi says.
A common refrain from many of them, Nardizzi says, is "I served my country, I did my part, I did what was asked of me. And now my country is breaking its promise to me.' Right now they're so angry with the government, but they understand that the public is still behind them."
The potential $20 million offer of assistance from Wounded Warrior Project would be the among largest initiatives by a private group or individual to cover unmet needs in the wake of the government shutdown Oct. 1.
A Texas billionaire couple donated $10 million to help keep the federal Head Start programs running.
And the Fisher House Foundation, which builds residences on the grounds of military hospitals for families visiting their wounded loved ones, is providing $725,000 as gifts to the families of 29 troops who have died since the shutdown, some of them in combat. Those families were initially denied death gratuities from the Pentagon because of the shutdown. Congress last week restored the $100,000-per-family payments.