Friday, October 25, 2013

Government shutdown affects veterans

By Regina Barbosa
Editor in Chief

Military tuition aid was suspended during the government shutdown, and affected veterans who use GI Bill benefits and Federal Tuition Assistance to help pay for schooling.

Pfc. Luke Sansovich is enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard (MNNG) while attending classes full-time as a junior at Saint Mary’s University. “I found out the day of that there was even a possibility of a government shutdown,” he said, “and because I’m National Guard, which is run through the state, I figured it wouldn’t affect me at all.”

Despite being a state-entity, the MNNG “is required by law to follow all Department of Defense furlough policies,” according to a statement by Lt. Col. Jon J. Lovald, MNNG Director of Human Resources.

Sansovich was scheduled to have drill the first weekend of the shutdown. “My sergeant texted me the day of, saying drill was cancelled because of the shutdown,” said Sansovich.

The loss of drill income has lead Sansovich to tighten up on spending until he receives a paycheck for his next drill in November. “I know a lot of guys who use drill pay to support their income; I use it to pay off my student loans, but since I didn’t have drill this month, I ended up having to pay out-of-pocket,” he said.

Sansovich and other veterans who utilize the Tuition Assistance (TA) program received no benefits during the shutdown and will ultimately lose out on them. “Those aren’t things that can get back-pay,” he said, “so they’re just benefits that I miss out on.”

Military support channels and the Army Knowledge Online website were suspended during the shutdown as well. “We could only reach certain hotlines,” said Sansovich. “Anything that needed to be done administratively this entire time, pretty much couldn’t be accomplished,” he said

According to Sansovich, several ROTC programs, including the Winona-La Crosse area ROTC program, will be permanently discontinued after graduating soldiers cycle through. He said, “I don’t think the [government] shutdown was the main reason, but ROTC programs were shutting down already and I think they took this opportunity to shut down permanently."

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