The government shutdown has now hit thousands of military veterans across the state after national furloughs were announced today.
The Veterans Affairs regional office in Newington was forced to shut down on Tuesday and more than 100 workers were furloughed.
“I was in a full blown panic, just don’t know what to do,” said Jakub Dziemaszkiewicz, a former Army sergeant working for the Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust. “It’s complete sheer panic at its earliest stages and it’s scary,” Dziemaszkiewicz said.
He was hurt fighting in Afghanistan a few years ago and depended on the Newington office for monthly disability checks. If the government shutdown continues, Dziemaszkiewicz said he could take a financial hit.
“I’m losing sleep over the fact that next month, I might not be able to pay my mortgage or some of my bills,” he explained.
Thousands of other veterans could take a hit too. They filed disability claims at the office, and now that it's closed, they have to go elsewhere, which could result in a huge backlog. Claims that were in the middle of being processed were put on hold.
“I talked to some veterans that are impacted by this and they’re in the same boat as I am and I don’t know how to reassure them,” Dziemaszkiewicz said.
The State Commissioner for Veterans affairs said she didn’t know either. Commissioner Linda Schwartz said the situation would only get worse until Congress agreed on a budget. She added there could be significant local furloughs if the shutdown continued through the end of October.
“So many veterans depend on this, they depend on their pensions, they depend on their benefits,” said Schwartz.
Veterans like Dziemaszkiewicz are hoping for some quick resolution in Washington D.C.
“We're all trying to adapt and see what happens day by day minute by minute,” Dziemaszkiewicz said.
The VA Regional Office in Newington is located in the VA Hospital. Officials wanted to clarify that medical services were not impacted and patients shouldn't worry.