Troops will get paid, but many others won’t

Federal government shutdown means Joint Base Lewis-McChord faces diminishing services, activities

Staff writerOctober 1, 2013 

A looming government shutdown had military and veterans offices in the South Sound scrambling Monday to figure out how to keep essential services running without a clear idea of when Congress might restore their funding.

Here’s the latest look at how the shutdown will impact troops, civilian employees at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the people who use services there.

 • The House and Senate passed a bill Monday to continue paying military service members despite the shutdown. The vote means troops should get paid on time Oct. 15. Furloughed civilian workers won’t get retroactive pay unless Congress passes another bill to restore their lost income.

 • About 1,000 civilian employees at the Washington National Guard likely will be sent home Tuesday. Guard leaders have not announced whether next weekend’s planned drills will take place as scheduled. Gov. Jay Inslee can call up guardsmen in the event of natural disasters, National Guard spokesman Karina Shagren said.

 • Civilian workers at Lewis-McChord will not be furloughed if their jobs are considered essential for the health and safety of residents on base, or if they support units that are deploying overseas.

 • Madigan Army Medical Center will remain open, and most patients will not notice significant changes to treatment plans. Madigan’s pharmacies will remain open. Some elective and dental surgeries could be delayed. Patients can check their appointments at 1-800-404-4506. “We are open for business,” Madigan spokesman Jay Ebbeson said.

 • Medical services at the Puget Sound VA hospitals in Seattle and at American Lake in Lakewood should operate without interruptions. Most Department of Veterans Affairs staffers are expected to be exempt from the shutdown’s furloughs, according to a plan released last week.

 • Processing of veterans benefits claims could be delayed. The Board of Veterans Appeals will not issue new decisions. Also, an extended shutdown could delay November payments for GI Bill and disability benefits, the VA said Monday.

 • Commissaries will open Tuesday, but mostly to help the military grocery stores clear out their perishable food. They will close if the shutdown continues.

 • Active-duty military training exercises are still taking place as long as they were booked before the shutdown. Commanders are unclear whether they’ll be able to buy new parts if equipment breaks during the exercises.

 • Lewis-McChord’s 446th Reserve Airlift Wing canceled a drill that was scheduled for next weekend.

The vote to continue paying troops through the shutdown helps the roughly 46,000 active-duty and Reserve military service members assigned to Lewis-McChord.

They could be coming to work with little to do, however, if the shutdown restricts other military activities. For example, limiting fuel purchases could grind some training operations to a halt.

U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, called the measure to continue paying military salaries “disappointing that it’s even necessary.”

“We shouldn’t be shutting down any part of the government or subjecting any JBLM civilian employees to more furloughs,” he said.

Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646 adam.ashton@ thenewstribune.com

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