(CBS News) — The U.S. Coast Guard is the only military branch that doesn’t get paid during thebecause it is part of the Department of Homeland Security.
CBS News’ Janet Shamlian spoke to three Coast Guard wives in Bacliff, Texas, who shared the struggles of not knowing when their husbands will get their money.
“Our budget is extremely tight. We have just bought only the necessities when we went grocery shopping and you know trying to look at the sales and see what’s on sale,” Vienna Julien said.
“We’ve been having ‘struggle meals,’ we call them,” Erin Picou added. “You take whatever’s in the fridge and whatever’s in the pantry and throw it in a casserole, and that’s a meal.”
“No Target run?” Shamlian asked.
“No Target run. Can’t even shop in that little dollar section that everyone gets hung up on,” Julien said.
Ashley Totten said the Coast Guard is “absolutely being overlooked” as the other branches of the military under the Defense Department get paid. “We just want there to be a resolution that puts the Coast Guard in a situation to actually be respected and treated the way that they should be as far as funding goes,” Totten said.
“We’re pawns. They’re just playing with us,” Picou said.
One Coast Guard support group’s advice for affected families: hold a garage sale. Its five-page financial guide for Coast Guard families listed ways to supplement their income. They also suggested baby-sitting, tutoring students, and becoming a “mystery shopper.” The advice was later removed from the support website. A spokesman said: “The information in this document does not reflect the Coast Guard’s current efforts to support its workforce during the lapse.”
“We’ve discussed should I just get a second job, but unfortunately I can’t because [my son] can’t be in daycare with his health issues. So for us, it’s that one paycheck no matter what. Knowing that at any given moment he could have open heart surgery—” Totten said, choking up with emotion. “So how are we going to pay for gas to get us to the medical center if that happens for him? So a paycheck shouldn’t be what we’re worrying about when he should be my focus.”
Asked whether it’s difficult to talk about their financial situation, Picou said, “It’s embarrassing.”
“So build the wall, don’t build the wall. But pay our husbands,” Julien said.