Service Members Ponder Fate as Debt Battle Rages

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While lawmakers in Washington are fighting to balance the budget, wounded service members were on Capitol Hill fighting a battle of their own.
    
Unexpected obstacles are hindering the recovery of veterans like Crystal Nicely's husband, Marine Cpl. Todd Nicely.

He is one of only three surviving quadruple amputees from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

In March 2010, Todd lost all of his arms and legs during an IED attack while he was on patrol in Afghanistan's Helmand province.

"You would think that it would be easy for someone to lose hope and motivation after such a catastrophic injury, but my husband has been a fighter since day one," Crystal told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Wednesday.

But the couple wound up having to fight another unexpected battle -- a bureaucratic one.

During her husband's convalescence at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Crystal tried to get the care he needed but kept running into red tape.  She says that she filled out form after form only to be asked to fill out the same forms again.

"To continually apply to be a non-medical attendant feels as though I am being judged on my love and care for Todd," Crystal said.

"What is upsetting is the lack of support, compassion and benefits for these individuals," she added. "It needs to be just a little bit easier."

The couple finally got the help they needed, but only after going to Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., for help.

"It should not take me talking to a United States senator to help my husband," Crystal said.

As the debt battle rages on in the nation's capital, many service members and veterans wonder how a government default would affect them.

"They don't know what's going to happen Aug. 1. They don't know what's going to happen Sept. 1. They don't know if disability checks are coming.  They don't know if paychecks are coming. They don't know if GI checks are coming and they're extremely concerned.  They're scared." Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said.

Sen. Murray chastised Washington leaders, saying the commitment they have to the men and women in uniform is "non-negotiable."

"They have sacrificed life and limb in combat," she said. "And they've done all of this selflessly and with honor to our country."

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Mark Martin is a reporter and anchor at CBN News, covering various issues from military matters to alternative fuels. Mark has reported internationally in the Middle East and traveled to Bahrain to cover stories on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkMartinCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/MarkMartinCBN.