Local residents voice frustration over shutdown

Elizabeth Weilacher, a registered nurse at the VA hospital, speaks during a press conference outside of Florida Rep. Ted Yoho's Gainesville office to protest the shut down of the Federal Government Tuesday, October 1, 2013.

Doug Finger/Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 7:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 7:55 p.m.

Ruth Browne spent six months of 2008 prepping wounded soldiers for surgery in the Iraqi desert. In 2009, she says she returned home from the military to a husband who died unexpectedly and a house that was broken into two times.

“It was difficult,” the 56-year-old nurse practitioner said. “Everything changed and I came back to a totally different scenario.”

Feeling lost, Browne recalled, she filed that year for federal compensation due to shoulder pain and depression.

But for two years, her case was on backlog, lost among the millions of other veteran compensation requests. When someone finally contacted her, the offer was too low, she said. To this day, she's embroiled in the process, she said.

That's why, on Tuesday afternoon, Browne joined a handful of residents and federal employees who voiced their concerns outside U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho's Gainesville office about the impact the U.S. government shutdown would have on the furloughed workers nationwide who didn't receive pay because they were asked not to come to work.

“A lot of government workers don't feel comfortable because they can't trust the government to stay open,” began Jeremiah Tattersall, a field staffer for the North Central Florida Central Labor Council.

“How can they trust the government to pay them?” he asked.

The group of roughly 15 residents had gathered to question the role that Yoho, a Republican, played in the shutdown, which has coincided with the online launch of the nation's new health insurance system.

Tattersall said the federal impasse over the budget should not be at the hands of the controversial health care act because it clogs an already struggling economy.

The congressman is not one 800,000 federal workers who were already furloughed six times this year, Tattersall said. “The consequences are not being felt by him and his family.”

Tattersall said he did not know the number of federal workers in Gainesville who would be affected by the shutdown.

But Kat Cammack, Yoho's chief of staff, who stood outside to listen to the residents' grievances, said sectors like agriculture, energy and commerce would be most affected by the shutdown, whereas social benefits, such as food stamps, postal service and VA treatment, would not.

“People will not see a disruption in those services,” Cammack said.

Elizabeth Weilacher, a veteran and steward with the American Federation of Government Employees, said starting Thursday, the VA in Gainesville will have to start furloughing people whose jobs are in information security and research.

In a speech, Weilacher said Yoho needs to “step up to the plate.”

“I have something to say to Congressman Yoho and all of the other congresspeople that are playing partisan politics on the backs of federal workers,” she said. “Shame on you!”

Browne, the military nurse, echoed the same concerns and said the shutdown is going to push back veteran compensation for “who knows how many years.”

But Eric Brown, a 20-year-old junior at the University of Florida, said the consequence could be more global.

“The reason it's a big deal is it affects the image of the American economy abroad,” Brown said of the shutdown, “and it could affect everybody in a globalized society. At this point, it has everyone hostage.”

Attempts to reach Yoho for comment were unsuccessful.

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