The View From Your Shutdown

A reader writes:

I thought I’d share my small frustration with the shutdown, though it absolutely pales in comparison to the full-time workers who are now going without a paycheck. I’m a full-time student and a drilling National Guard officer. What I don’t think is being widely photo-28reported yet is that in a bunch of states, Guard monthly drills and training assemblies are being cancelled, despite the stopgap bill that was pushed through funding the military through the shutdown.

My state has tentatively cancelled all regular training and drill until the shutdown is over, save for the folks already activated for named operations (Enduring Freedom, etc). All of the state’s National Guard technicians, full-time Guard soldiers who maintain our equipment and weapons, have been furloughed. That really messes with our readiness; we have vehicles in need of repair from training last month that won’t get fixed. Imagine if there was a real emergency like Sandy and a critical unit’s vehicles were inoperable.

It also screws with any full-time Guard technician airmen or soldiers out of a paycheck they may be depending on. So when it’s being reported that soldiers and airmen aren’t being affected by this shutdown, that’s just not true.

On a personal level too, I rely on the GI Bill and my monthly drill pay to pay my rent. The VA has said they have enough appropriations to pay out the check I’m due for September, but if the shutdown continues through October, I won’t get paid next time. Couple that with me missing out on that critical training we’re supposed to have been doing, and I may be in a little trouble come November 2nd. Luckily I have family to turn to.

I want to echo what your writer in Afghanistan said. And I would serve for free. But this isn’t fair to younger Guard/Reserve soldiers and airmen who don’t have the same amount of support that I do. A lot of my soldiers are young college kids who fully depend on drill pay and the GI Bill for 100% of their income while they’re in school. If this thing lasts long enough to get past one paycheck, it’s time for concern for those soldiers, because if they’re like me, they live paycheck-to-paycheck.

(My views and opinions are personal ones that should in no way be read as reflecting the views, official or otherwise, of the Army, the National Guard, or my unnamed state.)

Update from a reader:

From a current National Guardsman who is also trying to complete law school, missing drills for one month or two could make it difficult to get a “good year”. You need a certain number of drill points per year to make a year count toward retirement. As someone who only started a year ago, I struggled to make the minimum number while maintaining my schooling. Now, going into the next FY, if I am starting out four drills behind, I may miss out on a good year. Two months of shut-down could lead toward a full year later retirement for me should I choose to stay in.

Another:

I’m a DoD civilian working for a Major Command of the Air Force. I’ve just filed for unemployment. On Oct. 21, I’ll be undergoing a major operation which my federally subsidized health insurance will cover. The confluence of events and the timing for me are pretty bad. But I’ve had this job since 2009, when I graduated college. I’ve been furloughed eight days total this year, and been threatened with no less than three shutdowns since starting in 2009.

I believed then and believe now that I’m lucky to be working for the fed. I can’t name many people I went to high school or university with who have been putting away for retirement for four years. I can’t name many people who got jobs out of college who have kept them, and had the opportunity for advancement, pay raises and travel like I have.

When we were asked to sign our furlough notifications on Tuesday, my organization gathered all civilians together to answer questions and field concerns. The loudest people in the room were federal civilians with prior military service who will be receiving retirement checks during furlough from their previous careers as servicemembers. I don’t know how to feel about that, because they should be paid, in full, on time, for the time they served and protected us.

I’ve always been the type of citizen and voter happy to pay my taxes and enjoy the fruits of those taxes in the form of public transportation, safe streets and stop signs. I take medications which were almost all the result of NIH research or federal grants. I love the Smithsonians. If taking this one on the chin ensures that more people get more affordable healthcare through ACA, then I’ll live with it.

My overall conclusion is that this shutdown does, indeed, blow. I need it to end, because I want to keep believing that the downsides of federal employment are vastly outweighed by the upsides. If they keep this up, the federal workforce will lose its most experienced employees, and its youngest and most creative, who came into the job looking for a stability that no longer exists.

A final note: I’m glad I subscribed to The Dish for a full year back when I was getting full paychecks. Sound investment.

Read all of the testimonials in our “View From Your Shutdown” series here. And send us your own.