Broken Promises to American Families

My name is Jessi. My husband is an active duty Army doctor, and we are among the thousands of military families that will go without a paycheck under this government shutdown. My husband will still show up to work to deliver babies and prescribe medicines and ensure that the service members in one of the harshest environments in the world are prepared for duty – but he will not be paid. He might get back pay once the shutdown is over, but in 2013 that back pay had to be approved by Congress, and I have to say that my confidence in this Congress’ ability to do that is not high.

During that shutdown, my husband was a medical student under the military Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP). His medical school tuition was fully funded by the government in exchange for the military service he’s currently performing. HPSP students have reserve status and receive a stipend. In 2013, we received $2,000/month and were not eligible for Tricare (military) health benefits. I was an 8th grade language arts teacher making about $24,000/year. I worked because we needed health insurance, which cost more than half of my take-home pay every pay period.

We had our first son in April of that year. In October, when the shutdown happened, we lived without my husband’s stipend for the entire month of October. We were still paying off the thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket medical bills from our son’s birth. We went from about $2,800/month in total take-home pay to less than a third of that. We were barely making it by as it was. We had no savings. We lived penny to penny in those days. I remember calling my mom, crying because another large bill had come and we had no way to pay it.

I know that many working families and military families are facing this reality today, as we watch our government go back on its word to our families that are still working, fighting, bleeding and dying for our protection. Every military family knows that the job doesn’t stop just because the paychecks do.

According to the DoD’s 2016 demographics report, there are 2.1 million active and reserve military personnel, and an additional 2.7 million service family members, including spouses, children, and adult dependents. In America, we have a volunteer military supported by strong civilian partners. A failure to pay these service members or the civilians that support them for any amount of time is unacceptable.

In addition to its failure to support the military, the government shutdown will negatively affect civilian government workers in all 50 states and in our government facilities around the world. Another mom from our Raising Our Future community shared her anxiety with me as well:

“My husband is a federal employee at the Social Security Administration. I am pregnant and due any day now, so I am not working and therefore not bringing in a paycheck. I should be nesting and excited about our baby’s arrival, but instead I’m stressing out and anxious. Our current government is a joke. If [my Senator from NY] Schumer or [Majority Leader Senator] McConnell had to go without pay, I bet they’d be quick to get this resolved. But none of them ever thinks about how their actions actually affect the average American.” – Kasandra, in New York

This shutdown is squarely on the shoulders of the GOP Congress and the man sitting in the White House, whose job it is to keep America’s promises.

I am a part of a military family because we believe that America’s promises are worth fighting for. I am a part of Raising Our Future because I believe that our promises on the home front to our families and our children are what make the ideals of our country something worth fighting for.

I’m not going to forget that this Congress and this President broke their promise to my husband, and to me and our children. I hope none of you will either.