Impact of furlough: Veteran sent home from Eglin with no pay
Northwest Florida Daily News, Fort Walton Beach
FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. — After spending 25 years in the Air Force and several years as a Department of Defense contractor, Tom Mason now works as a civilian in construction and maintenance at Eglin Air Force Base. At 50 years old, he’s given more than half his life to the military.
After the government went into a partial shutdown Tuesday, Mason was sent home from work with no pay and no promise of when he will be able to return.
While the single dad said he should be all right for a few weeks, the furlough could prove difficult when his mortgage and car payments come due the middle of the month. The bills are well over $1,000, he said.
“I’ve got bills to pay and it could affect my credit in the long run,” he said Wednesday while on base to pick up some medication for his 18-year-old daughter, a senior at Choctawhatchee High School. “When it comes down to food versus paying the mortgage, I’ll be buying food.”
About one in four civilians who work for the Defense Department nationwide are veterans, according to the Center for Effective Government. While much attention has been given to how the shutdown could affect Veterans Affairs benefits, about 200,000 veterans already likely are feeling the sting from being sent home.
Thirty civilians, mostly veterans, work at Mason’s shop at Eglin. Almost of them were furloughed, he said.
They already have lost six days of pay this year because of sequestration cuts in the spring.
Mason said he received his military retirement check Tuesday and that will help him through. However, some of his co-workers don’t have that benefit and will struggle to make it to their next paychecks, whenever they may come.
He said many were looking for work Wednesday to fill the gaps.
The recent fluctuation in Mason’s job security has been challenging, but he said he’s not ready to take his chances outside the defense sector.
“It would pretty much be impossible for me to come right out and get some work,” he said.