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Veterans plan D.C. protest via Facebook

Washington Post / July 27, 2011

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WASHINGTON - The nation’s largest organization representing disabled veterans and their families is organizing a “virtual march on Washington’’ on Facebook to protect veterans’ compensation and benefits from being targeted for cuts in the debt-crisis negotiations.

The online protest, set for today, comes as veterans groups express increasing anger that veterans are being used in a game of brinkmanship.

“The uncertainty over what actions our government might take is causing unnecessary and harmful anxiety in the American public at large and veterans and their families specifically,’’ said Barry A. Jesinoski, executive director of the Washington headquarters of Disabled American Veterans, protest sponsor.

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, echoing comments from President Obama, warned this month that payments for veterans benefits could halt if there is no deal to raise the debt ceiling. Republicans have called such comments scare tactics.

“What we’ve heard is that if the debt limit isn’t raised, the government may not have enough money to pay its obligations, including veterans benefits checks,’’ said Garry Augustine, the DAV’s national service director. “Whether it’s accurate or not we’re not sure, but it makes people nervous when they hear it.’’

Thousands of virtual marchers have registered for the online protest, according to the DAV. Veterans and supporters will be encouraged, via Facebook and on several veterans groups’ websites, to record and post personal videos discussing their benefits and to e-mail elected officials.