What America’s debt default could do to Orange County citizens and veterans

The Marines set up a pull up bar and held a contest outside of the quad.

The Marines set up a pull-up bar and held a contest outside of the quad.

Tension rises across the nation as the calendar gets closer to July 1.  For the past several months, state officials and White House officials have gathered to figure out a way to raise the debt ceiling before time runs out. If no deal is struck before July, the effects would be catastrophic to America’s economy.

Currently, the only known option to slow government spending in hopes of paying off our nation’s debt is by ceasing all federally funded programs. This would immediately affect social security benefits, food stamps, housing assistance, active military pay, veteran benefits and even survivors of fallen troops.

Our nation’s most financially dependent citizens would be at risk of homelessness, loss of medical care, and even hunger in just a few short weeks.

What could this mean to Orange County? The United States Census Bureau stated that nearly 100,000 veterans reside in Orange County not including active military personnel that live off of base in July 1, 2022. With the current trend, approximately 6,500 veterans will reside in Orange County as they transition out of the military every year. 

These numbers also don’t include the number of veteran spouses, dependents, and widowed survivors who also have access to certain veteran benefits.

Orange County Veterans Initiative evaluation report shows that 59% of the total number of  Orange County veterans are between the ages of 65-75 and up as well as 56% that live with a disability. This could mean that thousands of elderly disabled veterans will be displaced and lose their much-needed medical benefits. 

When going down the totem pole of veterans and dependents, many of the younger generations are also at high risk of losing their education and everything they earned to be financially established in our current economy. Many of those that lack a job, education, and life experience.

Going on almost a full year without COVID-19 lockdowns many have finally begun to practically apply our skills in our chosen line of work of study from our teachers, professors, and instructors via in-person and online. 

For many civilians, this has positively affected their lives and finances but for most military veterans this may all seem foreign. The U.S. military attrition rate is the second highest in all of NATO. The United States Government Accounting Office released a publication that stated nearly 30% of enlistees don’t finish their first term and that 25-40% of the remaining enlistees from each cycle retire after their first term. 

These are tens of thousands of men and women that have a very limited scope of civilian life, practical work experience, and education in comparison to their civilian peers. Now, these former service members that have sacrificed the best years of their lives for a chance at financial stability and education are now gone. 

“GI Bill education benefits may be used at qualifying institutions of higher learning, colleges,  universities, non-degree institutions, vocational and technical schools, apprenticeship or on-the-job training, flight schools, and licensing and certification exams,” from the state of California’s Veterans Resource Book

Some of the best and brightest minds are all now at risk of being blocked off from their hard-earned benefits. Not being able to access their education benefits can impede them from prerequisite training or a general education, making them a far less competitive employee or given lower pay, making them incapable of providing in any way that they deserve. This is also considering that there are already enough jobs for everyone if no decision is made by June.

On Wednesday, May 17, President Joe Biden spoke at the White House and seemed optimistic that the U.S. will not default on its debt. “I’m confident that we’ll get the agreement on the budget and America will not default,” Biden said. “It would be catastrophic for the American economy and the American people if we didn’t pay our bills. I’m confident everyone in the room agreed that we’re going to come together because there’s no alternative.”

But on Thursday, May 18 the Pentagon released information that due to an accounting error that was resolved about $3 billion has been freed up to send to Ukraine. The error was supposedly found two months ago and has since been corrected but yet no clear answer has been given by members of Congress, state officials, or the president as to if the government will default on its debt. 

This is all happening as the Democratic and Republican parties are debating over the January 6 riot on the U.S. Capitol building back in 2021. This comes after three former agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and now whistle-blowers released statements against the practices and standards of the FBI against the American people.

With billions worth of assets and equipment being sent to Ukraine or political parties arguing over the weaponizing of federal organizations, it’s clear that President Biden’s statement of Wednesday is still very much unclear. 

“They will have to raise the debt ceiling or make a deal,” said Christopher Quezada, Marine Corps Infantry rifleman veteran and now Orange County firefighter. “If we default it would be catastrophic to the U.S. economy and would cause issues throughout the global economy.”

Veterans are expressing their concerns about the current state of our nation’s financial affairs or the implications to their health, studies, and overall way of life if no deal is struck. Veterans Affairs benefits help the transition of going back to civilian life as well as giving veterans and their families the proper tools for financial and health stability. For many, this can make or break their entire lives. 

“I have not received any information about my benefits from the VA,” said Justin Noyola, Marine Corps infantry rifleman veteran. “If the government defaults I will lose my disability, the ability to pay for school, and possibly even my job since I work on a government contract.”

When reaching out to the Saddleback College Veterans Outreach office to speak to Veteran Affairs representative Kelandra R. Anthony but due to her current capacity was unable to speak on the topic. Saddleback College’s Student Veterans payment office has also yet to release an official statement at this time as well. 

“We’d all be screwed and a lot of vets would be too,” said Marine Corps Infantry Rifleman veteran Xavier Sandoval. “This would negatively affect me by taking away my disability and health care as well as my GI Bill benefits.” 

According to College Factual, Saddleback College currently houses 553 students using the GI Bill. This accounts for about 3% of all the students currently enrolled. Saddleback College is very popular for Marine Corps and Navy veterans due to how close First Marine Divison, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton is to the campus. 

But due to the uncertainty of the situation, one thing has been made clear by all veterans and dependents, to prepare for the worst for any and all outcomes.

Marine Corps Infantry Machinegunner veteran, Gavin Wilson shared his opinion and ways for veterans and their dependents to prepare. “With this economy, it may be tough but still all veterans should focus on financial security,” said Wilson. “Save an emergency fund, be current on bills, and fire where you can cut costs. Be smart with your money and start looking into how to supplement your disability and other benefits.” 

Unfortunately, everyone will have to wait and see if any decision is made and what the impact of the decision will do to America, its citizens, and the rest of the world. June 1, 2023, will nonetheless be yet another political and historical day for America and quite possibly the world.