Month: August 2017

No, the Trump Effect is Not Abstract. It is Directly Affecting My Family.

I promised I’d write a blog about this issue. I was also personally encouraged by my Congressman, Paul Tonko, yesterday morning to publicly speak to this issue.

I am the wife of an Air Force veteran. He is an Iraq War veteran. I am also a former federal employee of the Air Force. Clearly, we both love the Air Force and our military as a whole. We understand the sacrifices our military members (and, yes, their spouses) make in serving our country.

Because of the sacrifices they make, and the fact they volunteer to fight, kill, and die on behalf of us, the entire U.S., and our allies, our veterans receive compensation in many forms. Basic Housing Allowance (BHA), allowances to help pay for utilities, etc.

One of the biggest forms of compensation our veterans receive is the GI Bill—whether Montgomery or Post-9/11. These bills pay for the education of our service members so they can rank up in the military and become leaders, or so they can transition into the civilian sector when they separate or retire.  It’s an incredibly useful and worthwhile incentive.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill also allows a housing stipend for its users. My husband is one of many veterans who benefits from this stipend. He is attending university with a major in Political Science. He works for the State of New York in state politics. This degree will help him progress in his civilian career. And he earned it.

When I was a stay-at-home-mom (I rejoined the workforce this year), the housing stipend was the majority of our monthly rent. It helped us survive. Even after I started working again this year, it paid the majority of our rent. It was a huge help especially after me not working for so long so I could stay with our daughter through her formative years. But staying home did set us back a bit. We would have drowned without his GI Bill.

We ARE drowning without his GI Bill.

We haven’t received his housing stipend in four months now. And he is still actively in school. Not only that, they have now stopped sending his monthly disability payment. Because of some debt they’re unable to verify he has.

They stopped his monthly payments because of a debt they can’t find or justify.

Why?

We were informed today by the Congressional aid helping us with this issue that she FINALLY got a hold of someone directly at the VA, but they still couldn’t answer the question.

They are STILL assigning case workers from MARCH of this year. MARCH!

So, in addition to yanking his monthly stipend and disability for a debt they don’t know about (we were told at one point it was because his school didn’t file the paperwork the VA needed. The school had no idea what they were talking about and have been sending his info as required each semester. Now the VA says they don’t know what the debt is), they don’t even have a case worker assigned to it FOUR MONTHS LATER to get it sorted out.

In the meantime, we have fallen back again because 100% of our rent is now coming out of our own pockets. This is normally fine because that’s what you do in the civilian world. But it’s NOT fine because the VA is failing to provide the benefits our service members were promised.

And we are not the only family with a veteran who is experiencing this problem in our Congressman’s district. So, we are certainly not the only family in New York State. Nor are we the only family in the United States. There are other families going through this. Having their financial situations uprooted, and possibly even obliterated, because the VA is failing to provide the guaranteed funding to their education and housing stipends that were part of their contract in signing on the dotted line.

My theory?

This is a direct result of the Trump administration and its inability to do pretty much anything in government.

Folks, this is what happens when you elect a (failed) businessman and not someone with government, political, or military background. You get someone wholly unqualified.

Trump’s nominee, and now Secretary of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Dr. David Shulkin, was an undersecretary in the VA, so does have some knowledge of how the VA works and what is required of them. So, what is happening in the VA that is financially crippling some of our vets?

Is it because Dr. Shulkin doesn’t have as much grasp on the job as one would hope of an undersecretary?

Or is it because he is heading a federal agency and reports directly to a president who has repeatedly denigrated our veterans, ignored our active duty members, and is a political neophyte?

Is Shulkin aware this is happening? Is he doing anything about it?

Or…is this happening because of the instability in Washington as a result of an administration led by a man-toddler who throws tantrums and threatens nuclear war on Twitter on the regular? Because the country is “led” by someone whose only consistency is in how often he changes his mind and how often he blows his top.

Don’t you think that may affect the morale of our federal appointees? Which may affect the morale (and job performance) of the people who work in any given agency?

The effects of this administration are not some abstract concept we read about in newspapers. The effects of this administration are REAL. In so many ways. The inability of the current occupant of the White House to actually govern and organize is literally creeping into the homes of Americans at every level.

My family is just one example. There are many more.

So, what are we supposed to do? There’s no solution in sight for this issue. It’s no longer an income we can count on. And it has really hurt us. We have bills to pay. We have one car and it needs repairs. We can’t do that now. Because the money that would have allowed us to do that is now going to rent because the VA isn’t sending his stipend anymore. And we’re still not sure on the reason why. And they won’t give us an answer. Nor will they give our Congressman a direct answer.

So, Trump…what are you going to do to help my family?

My bet is he’ll do what he was going to do from the beginning: nothing.

I just wish other people weren’t blind to what his goals were and still are.

We are all suffering for it now. And it is why I take votes for Trump from people I know so personally.  Because their votes affected my family’s life, and not for the better.

-NY Political Mom