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Oct 11, 2013 9:06 PM by Nathan O'Neal

Shutdown threatens disability benefits for millions of veterans

TUCSON - If the partial government shutdown drags on into late October, it could cut off disability benefits to 3.8 million veterans across the country.

It's just the latest side effect that gridlock on Capitol Hill has caused and local veteran support groups are speaking out.

"They're the ones that are on the front lines, they're the ones that are coming back wounded, maimed and killed," said Steve Aguirre, commander of a local American Legion Post.

Aguirre said it's the uncertainty of negotiations that has veterans like him worried.

"There's a lot of veterans that receive benefits for their disability, whether they be in the line of duty... obviously, they're concerned whether they're going to get their benefits on time," Aguirre told News 4 Tucson.

It's a threat that is very real - as Veterans Affair Secretary Eric Shinseki warned Congress earlier this week. If this partial shutdown continues, he said, it could prevent as many as 3.8 million veterans from getting their disability payments.

For some veterans that could put their financial security at risk.

"Some of these veterans, just due to the way times are right now - are depending on these things... so it definitely impacts the quality of life that these veterans and these service members are basically depending on," said Abel Moreno, a veteran who served in both the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

"If they're unable to work or if they have some sort of disability as a result of having lost a limb, it's difficult to find employment these day," said Robert Kayser, a Desert Storm veteran.

Meanwhile, gridlock on Capitol Hill continues to stall any hopes of the government re-opening any time soon while folks back home hope for the best.

"We expect, not only as veterans but as citizens of the United States, that they would do their job in a timely fashion," Aguirre said.

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