Army veteran Charles Brave was among more than a dozen people who stood on the sidewalk in front of the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center on Wednesday afternoon to protest the federal sequester and how the across-the-board cuts could affect veterans in Charleston.
“It’s bad enough when veterans have to go and serve the country and come back and can’t find a job, can’t get health care and, actually, that’s why I’m here,” said Brave, 59, a Mount Pleasant resident. “I’m worried about my own benefits really.”
The federal sequester — automatic budget cuts that took effect March 1 — will force nearly every government department to cut spending. A spokeswoman for the VA Medical Center previously told The Post and Courier that the Department of Veterans Affairs and the VA hospital will not be affected.
But Erin McKee, president of the Charleston Labor Council, who organized the demonstration, is worried about the indirect impact the spending cuts may have on men and women who have served the country, especially ones who are looking for jobs.
“This is some serious stuff that affects people’s lives and these veterans, especially the ones that came back from Iraq ... deserve the promises that they were given. They should not have to wait for mental health services or to see doctors. It’s just not right,” McKee said. “They can repeal it. I hope it’s not too late. Otherwise, what’s going to happen to this country?”
The demonstration in Charleston was a small part of a larger national movement by the labor union federation AFL-CIO to protest the federal cuts.
The Charleston protesters, some veterans, some not, held signs that read, “Cancel the cuts,” “Fighting for our vets” and “Our country is better than this. Repeal the sequester.”
Robert Porcher, 66, of the Wando area, served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam. He joined the demonstration Wednesday because he, too, is worried about his veteran’s benefits.
“As a veteran, I don’t want to see any benefits lost, especially for those that are disabled,” Porcher said. “This little demonstration that we’re doing will have some input and hopefully will help someone who is in charge of making decisions to see that the benefits remain for the veterans or are increased.”
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