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JBLM families brace for shutdown; Army and VA hospitals to stay open

Post by Adam Ashton / The News Tribune on April 8, 2011 at 11:58 am |
April 8, 2011 2:29 pm

1:30 p.m. update: Madigan Army Medical Center will stay open through a shut down, but mostly for emergencies, urgent mental health services and pregnancy care. Madigan officials are posting updates online at the hospital’s Facebook page.

Here’s the hospital’s official announcement:

Madigan Healthcare System will primarily limit services to inpatient care, urgent and emergency outpatient care, as well as urgent behavioral health care or crisis intervention.  Some services will remain open such as those for dialysis, hematology and oncology.  All pregnancy care will continue, but pharmacy services will be limited.  Routine, wellness and specialty appointments, to include elective surgery, will be cancelled.  The appointment line at 1-800-404-4506 will remain open for beneficiaries to inquire about their appointments and for those in need of urgent “non-emergency” care.  Medical care on the TRICARE network will continue.

2 p.m. update: The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced that hospitals and health care will not be impacted by a government shut down. All in-patient care, out-patient care, pharmacy services, surgeries, dental treatment, extended care and nursing home operations will continue as normal.

Some VA services will be impacted, however. They include human resources, decisions on appeals for benefits and a halt on processing new claims for pensions and benefits. For more, go here.

Military families in the South Sound are bracing for tighter pay checks next week as the Pentagon prepares for a possible government shutdown this weekend.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates told soldiers this week their next paychecks would be for half the usual amount, straining budgets for young, enlisted soldiers who typically live paycheck to paycheck.

“It’s very scary. How am I supposed to feed my kids,” asked Sheena Renee Switzer, 23. Her husband is a specialist assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where they live with their three children. They expect to clear just $300 next week.

Switzer and a friend are making long lists of groceries they intend to buy at base commissary today because they worry it’ll close, too. They plan to make big meals for their families to share until the husbands’ salaries are restored.

“A lot of starches,” she said.

Switzer fears that Congress’ budget fight will drag out and military families won’t get paid at all by the start of next month. That has her worried not only about her family, but the country as well.

“With the media broadcasting all of this are we going to be at a greater risk of terrorist attacks? How can you not pay your military?” she asked.


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