SD’s Seniors, Veterans Fret over Uncle Sam’s Furloughs

By Gene Cubbison
|  Tuesday, Oct 1, 2013  |  Updated 7:50 PM PDT
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Social Security and Veterans Administration checks will continue to be issued during the government shutdown. However, fallout from the shutdown may impact agencies that serve senior citizens. NBC 7’s Gene Cubbison explains.

Social Security and Veterans Administration checks will continue to be issued during the government shutdown. However, fallout from the shutdown may impact agencies that serve senior citizens. NBC 7’s Gene Cubbison explains.

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The federal government’s partial shutdown is sending waves of concern throughout San Diego's large communities of retirees and veterans, who are now coping with a host of uncertainties.

"These people need confidence again,” said Violet Medin, as she surveyed a luncheon crowd of scores of senior citizens who gathered Tuesday at the Gary & Mary West Senior Wellness Center downtown. “The government needs to open their eyes and hear us out."

But even with SSI checks still coming, San Diego’s most financially vulnerable retirees are worried about what other kinds of support to expect from Uncle Sam during the government shutdown.

"It's not really a sweet beginning right now for me, at the 'Golden 65',” Gilda Adams said. “My retirement, it's just beginning. And I'm still looking for work."

Certain bureaucratic cutbacks in Social Security, such as the issuance income verification letters, could delay some senior citizens’ applications for affordable housing.

"You know, they can handle a couple of days,” explained Brent Wakefield, vice president of Senior Community Centers, which operates the West Wellness Center. “A few weeks of people looking for housing, not being able to find housing, means that we could have -- in fact -- a larger senior homeless population."

Medical care, insurance and home loan programs through the Department of Veterans Affairs aren't part of the shutdown.

But funding for a variety of compensation, pension, education payments and other functions is only expected through late October.

At American Legion Post 310 in Chollas View, a Tuesday afternoon squad of veterans spoke of the morass in the nation’s capitol in harsh, unforgiving terms.

"When they decided to shut this thing down, I don't think they were thinking about us,” said Roger Waiters, a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Navy who retired as a senior chief radioman “They didn't have their minds on this. All they were trying to do is make a political statement, without thinking this whole thing through. You're affecting a lot of people out here. And we've got a lot of veterans."

Waiters noted that the VA cutbacks include a suspension of overtime for claims handlers who are swamped with unprocessed paperwork.

"They just hired new people to come in and try to kill that backlog,” Waiters said. “What happens now is, they've shut the government down, so here we go again."

Also among the VA cuts are a rollback in national cemetery burial schedules and the frequency of agency's Web site updates. Plus, a moratorium on appeal board decisions and the recruitment and hiring of veteran job applicants -- except in healthcare -- and a suspension of appeal board decisions and processing of Freedom of Information and Privacy Act requests.

Fred Davis, a volunteer at the West Wellness Facility, echoed the frustration over the standoff in Washington.

“There’s too much politics in policies. They should just get down to business, both the Democrats and Republicans, and try to straighten out this country’s mess,” Davis said.

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