Veterans' Groups Advocate for U.S. Coast Guard Pay
As the government shutdown continues with no end in sight, veterans' advocacy groups are calling on Congress and the White House to fund the U.S. Coast Guard, which is set to miss payroll for 42,000 active-duty servicemembers tomorrow.
“The military is unaffected by the current shutdown because their fiscal year 2019 spending bill was approved already, but America’s fifth service — the U.S. Coast Guard — and the rest of the Department of Homeland Security are very much impacted," said B.J. Lawrence, head of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, in a statement. “Our country needs this Congress and this White House to push through the rhetoric and take care of those who are on the front lines protecting our country."
Brett P. Reistad, the head of the American Legion, echoed Lawrence's warning. “Just because a Washington flow chart structures the Coast Guard under Homeland Security does not mean they should not be paid," said Reistad. "Members of the Coast Guard regularly perform heroic and lifesaving tasks on our behalf. They should not have to worry about bills and living expenses just because Congress and the White House cannot agree on a budget.”
The effort extends to direct aid and fundraising as well. The American Legion's Temporary Financial Assistance (TFA) program is prioritizing grant requests from active-duty Coast Guard families, and the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA) board has approved an interest-free loan program for lower paygrades.
Local groups are also getting involved. In Boston, the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation has opened a new food pantry with support from other local organizations, and it has served about 400 Coast Guard families in its first few days in operation. In Washington, D.C., American Legion Post #8 is holding a fundraiser concert for CGMA, with a goal of raising at least $2,500 for the cause.
In a message to Coast Guard families, Coast Guard Vice Adm. Karl Schultz said that the agency itself will make every effort on their behalf. "Please know that we are doing everything we can to support and advocate for you while your loved one stands the watch. You have not, and will not, be forgotten," Schultz wrote.