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C.O. veterans starting to feel shutdown impacts

By Katie Higgins
Published On: Oct 10 2013 03:54:23 PM CDT

Veterans in Central Oregon are seeing problems because of the government shutdown. Many aren't seeing benefits they count on.

BEND, Ore. -

Ten days into the government shutdown, and already veterans in Central Oregon are having problems.

"I began to wonder if there was a problem, and it turned out there was indeed a problem," Joshua Rowley said Wednesday.

Rowley's problems began when he tried to re-certify for the VRAP program, or Veterans Retraining Assistance Program. Usually, he goes online and enters his Social Security number. This month, however, it said his number could not be verified.

"I've always checked in using my Social Security number, and they said, 'Well, we're sorry we don't recognize that number," Rowley said.

He was already enrolled in a quarter's worth of classes at Central Oregon Community College in the culinary program, one of the most expensive programs COCC has to offer.

Rowley began to worry, because he did not budget for the expense. He was relying on the VRAP benefits. He did what he saw as his only option.    

"The safe thing for me to do was go ahead and withdraw," Rowley said.    

Friday is the last day to drop classes before being held liable to pay for the quarter.

On Tuesday, Rowley returned his books.      

"It is trickling down, and right now and it's affecting the veterans that are dependent on these federal benefits," said Darin Darlington of Central Oregon Veterans Outreach.

Rowley tried to call the Veterans Administration to find out what was going on, but there was no answer.

"I repeatedly called," Rowley said.

There are few if any answers right now for veterans or for non-profits like COVO that help them.

"You have the mission, the battle plan and the alternative plan and the alternate plan to the alternate," Darlington said. "So you never get blindsided. So for veterans being raised in that environment there is no battle plan here, there are no contingencies."

Many veterans rely heavily on the benefits they receive, and another date that could cause changes looms in the near future. 

"The next thing is the 17th -- I mean, who knows what's going to happen with the debt ceiling issue?" Darlington said.   

All veterans can do is wait and hope they are effected as little as possible, although many still have major concerns.    

"My major concern would be if that is shut down, where would I get my health care?" Rowley said.

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