CLEVELAND -- When a country that promises to take care of its veterans shuts down, what happens to the vets?
It's the question many Northeast Ohio veterans and their loved ones are asking as they wade into the unknown.
"If we can't come to agreements within our own country, I mean what's our world coming to?" said Tim Kyea, an Army veteran who is using the GI Bill to attend Cuyahoga Community College.
"Now we're talking about checks that could enable these people to pay for their homes, children for education, things that have already been services rendered, services paid," said Kyea.
While some veterans services, including medical, are funded a year in advance, others, including disability, pension and education benefits,could run dry the longer a shutdown goes on.
"It's my whole life. What am I going to do?" said Keith Misch, who has a 100 percent disability rating from his time in the Army.
"We're better than that. That's what we fought for. For being better than that," said Misch.
As of Tuesday, veterans call centers are closed, internments at national cemeteries pushed back and the more than 400,000 people waiting in a backlog for benefits frozen.
Since March, the VA has introduced several intiatives to help catch up on the backlog that causes people in Cleveland to wait an average 223 days to hear a response for compensation.
Kate O'Gorman, the political director for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America or IAVA says all initiatives to help are in jeopardy because of shutdown with the loss of administrative support and mandatory overtime discontinued. She expects wait times will go up and progress slowed every single day.
Army Veteran Norman Swinehart had to file an appeal after the VA claimed it couldn't locate records of his service-related sexual assault. He's been waiting for a response since 2009.
"I'm fighting it now and who knows with this going on," he said. "Back then they didn't believe guys had sexual trauma. It's a bunch of baloney. It's not just women, it's men too."
"Get off your butt and do something. That's what they need to do in Washington," said Misch. "We can't run our government without money."
Case managers at IAVA can help veterans navigate all types of transition issues. You can contact them at 855-91-RAPID (72743) to get individual advice on finding resources and minimizing disruptions caused by the VA. Click here for more information.
O'Gorman says VA hospitals are still operational because Congress previously passed appropriations to fund medical care one year in advance.
Current pending legistlation could extend that appropriation to all parts of the VA, giving veterans protection from shutdowns like this.