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Budget Woes In Washington Threaten VA Benefits

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A perfect storm of budget woes in Washington could strip our veterans of their benefits.

Both the ongoing government shutdown and the looming deadline to raise the debt ceiling are now major players.

Wounded warriors bear the burdens of wars past and present, but those who depend on VA disability benefits don't know right now how long they can.

"That's a travesty, our government should be down on their knees and thanking these soldiers," said Army National Guard Veteran Helen Nelson.

She and her husband, an Army Combat Veteran on 100 percent disability, depend on his disability check.

"We live pretty much still paycheck to paycheck, so if I don't receive my social security at the end of the month, my husband doesn't receive his disability or his military pay, we'll be down pretty much next to nothing," Helen said.

Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki told lawmakers at a Veteran Affairs hearing Wednesday that if the government shutdown lasts through the month, millions will be left without disability compensation.

"Here's what I'm facing, I didn't know there was going to be a shutdown. I had no idea that this was intended," Shinseki said.

Meanwhile, if lawmakers don't agree on raising the debt limit by October 17, the government will lose a third of its spending money, possibly cutting into a long list of payments, including VA benefits.

"It's going to hurt us, it's going to hurt us economically, it's going to hurt us socially," said Jeff Carter, an Army Veteran.

The Wounded Warrior project released a statement Wednesday saying it is outraged that wounded service members could lose their benefits.

Part of it says, "These warriors have already sacrificed so much, it is unfathomable and unacceptable to ask them to bear any further burdens. It is the fundamental responsibility of the government to pay these service members their benefits, and any disruption to those payments is shameful."

VFW National Commander in Chief Bill Thien released a statement Thursday saying, "Those who have borne the burden of battle are now endangered by the very political system they vowed to protect. If our veterans had acted similarly while in uniform, there is a good chance that we would now be flying a flag of a different color."

Helen says she feels left behind.

"I don't understand, I don't understand, I feel like I've been turned on. Our veterans have been turned on," she said.

Reporter: Sophia Stamas sstamas@kcentv.com

Photographer: Chris Buford cbuford@kcentv.com

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