Legion Offers Help to Coasties During Shutdown, Calls for Exemption to Pay Cutoff

Coast Guard Cutter Sherman crewmembers line the rail of the flight deck prior to evening colors during a ceremony aboard the Sherman in Honolulu, Mar. 28, 2018. (U.S. Coast Guard photo/Matthew Masaschi)
Coast Guard Cutter Sherman crewmembers line the rail of the flight deck prior to evening colors during a ceremony aboard the Sherman in Honolulu, Mar. 28, 2018. (U.S. Coast Guard photo/Matthew Masaschi)

The American Legion has stepped in with offers of limited assistance for Coast Guard personnel working without pay should the partial government shutdown continue into next week.

In a statement Monday, Legion National Commander Brett Reistad also called on members of Congress to back the "Pay Our Coast Guard Act" introduced by Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota.

The bill would exempt the Coast Guard from the shutdown funding cutoff affecting its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The proposed exemption would also cover Coast Guard retiree benefits, death gratuities and other related payouts.

Currently, about 42,000 Coast Guard personnel are working without pay. DHS and the Coast Guard were able to find funding for members' last paychecks, which went out Dec. 31. The next paychecks for Coast Guardsmen are due Jan. 15.

Reistad said the Legion backs the Thune bill legislation, "which will guarantee that these heroes who guarantee our safety and security will be paid on time and not miss a single paycheck."

"Just because a Washington flowchart structures the Coast Guard under Homeland Security does not mean they should not be paid," he added.

The Legion is prepared to offer financial assistance to some Coast Guardsmen.

"In the event that there is a delay in paying our Coast Guard, I have directed administrators of the American Legion Temporary Financial Assistance program to stand by and quickly administer requests made by active-duty Coast Guard members with children who need help with living expenses," Reistad said.

However, he noted, "As a nonprofit, the American Legion is not capable of funding the entire Coast Guard payroll."

The Veterans of Foreign Wars also called Congress to find a way to keep paying Coast Guard personnel.

"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," B.J. Lawrence, VFW national commander, said in a statement. "What the Coast Guard and DHS do daily allows the rest of us to sleep easier at night. No one should ever take that for granted."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

Show Full Article