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Coast Guard Retirees Among Those Struggling To Make Ends Meet Amid Shutdown

President Donald Trump waves as he arrives to give the commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Wednesday, May 17, 2017, in New London, Conn. (Susan Walsh/AP)
President Donald Trump waves as he arrives to give the commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Wednesday, May 17, 2017, in New London, Conn. (Susan Walsh/AP)

Retired members of the United States Coast Guard may not receive their monthly retirement checks if the government shutdown drags on, the Department of Homeland Security tells On Point.

The veterans are the latest group of people suffering the impact as the shutdown drags on. From roughly 800,000 federal workers facing pay freezes, to millions of Americans anticipating food stamp interruptions, the effects are piling up. National parks in disarray, more TSA workers calling out sick and a potential delay in tax refunds are also on the horizon.

On Monday's On Point hour about how the government shutdown is affecting day-to-day life for Americans, we shared a story from Coast Guard retiree Anthony Sederstrom, of Goose Creek, South Carolina, who brought this issue to our attention via email.

"The stress, worry, and utter nonsense of this shutdown is beginning to affect citizens of this country in many unseen ways," he wrote. "I am a 26-year veteran of the Coast Guard and although I received my retirement pay on the first of the year, February's pay is in question."

Active-duty, reserve and retired Coast Guard members received pay for the month of December, according to the Coast Guard's blog "All Hands." That's thanks to a special approval worked out by the Trump administration, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Coast Guard. This move reversed the original position from officials that no December paychecks would come.

That approval, however, is just a one-time action. January and February payments are now up in the air.

"Meeting active duty and reserve military payroll for January 2019 will require a fiscal year 2019 appropriation, a continuing resolution or passage of an alternative measure," Coast Guard social media manager Diana Sherbs wrote in an "All Hands" blog post published Dec. 28.

And for retirees: "If this lapse in appropriations continues into February, they may not get paid their future installments."

Unlike other military branches, the Coast Guard falls under the command of the Department of Homeland Security. Other services remain unaffected because the Department of Defense has a budget approved into next year.

"I am in the process of tightening my belt and preparing for the worst, hoping this will all be resolved soon," said Sederstrom, who retired in 2006 at the rank of warrant officer to lieutenant (O-3E). "Personally and thankfully, I can ride out this mess for five months or more without the retirement income. Many others, likely not."

We also heard from active-duty Coast Guard member Danny, from Pensacola, Florida.

"It's the only military branch that will not be paid if there's not action by the 11th of January," he said, noting the ever-present need for Coast Guard members to be working, whether they are getting paid or not.

"Unlike most federal employees, military members, they don't have a choice when they live, and support systems are limited."

Approximately 150,000 Coast Guard active duty, reservists, civilians, auxiliarists, retirees, as well as NOAA and U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps members will be affected by a continued lapse in appropriations, Coast Guard spokesman Barry Lane told On Point. This represents more than $5 billion in retired and active pay.

"Retirees are paid monthly so the next payment will be at the end of January. If the lapse lasts through the end of January, there will not be enough funding to support those payments," Lane said. He did also note, however, that, "Veterans Administration (VA) (i.e. disability pay, Montgomery G.I. Bill funding) payments should not be affected by this lapse in appropriations."

In general, under a legacy retirement plan, retirees are eligible to receive 50 percent of their base pay beginning at the completion of 20 years of service and add another 2.5 percent for each year served past 20 years.

Average monthly retirement payments for Coast Guard retirees just one year removed from service range from $1,700 (lower-end enlisted members) to $4,300 (high-end officers), per this Department of Defense retirement calculator.

Related:

Alex Schroeder Twitter Digital Producer, On Point
Alex Schroeder is a digital producer for On Point.

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