Shutdown deals Bend veteran a 1-2 punch

Due to take classes, not sure how she'll pay

POSTED: 8:11 PM PDT October 2, 2013 
BEND, Ore. -

For 29-year-old Bend army veteran Mary Ludwig, the government shutdown couldn't have come at a worse time.

"It is really, really frustrating -- those are the only two things I needed the government to stick with me through, and they're like, 'Oh, just kidding, these aren't important,'" Ludwig said Wednesday.

Ludwig served as an ammunition specialist during Operation Iraqi Freedom. As a result, she says she suffers from a handful of physical and mental health problems.

But she's not letting the setbacks slow her down. She's close to finishing her bachelor's degree --and has plans to go farther.

"I was approved into the master's vocational rehab program, which only about 8 percent of veterans who apply to that get in," she said.

With the shutdown, Ludwig said her future is in jeopardy.

She recently submitted an appeal to her current disability level. But there's nobody working in the office to process it.

"I cannot get my disability upped anymore from 20 percent until this whole debacle is resolved," Ludwig said.

Ludwig told NewsChannel 21 she helps her husband to support her two kids on her current disability -- just $235 a month.

She said the vocational rehab program discourages students from working while getting their degree.

She wants to get her family out of poverty by getting a master's degree through OSU-Cascades in mental health clinical counseling.

She said it's important to her to help other struggling veterans.

And that's where she faces another problem.

"The (vocational) rehab program only has enough money to start new claims through October," Ludwig said.

She also said her processing appointment isn't until mid-October. But she doesn't think it will have enough time to go through before November.

Ludwig said if her claim doesn't get processed in time, she could miss the opportunity to get her master's degree paid for.

However, OSU-Cascades officials say Ludwig could be a rare case.

Jane Reynolds, director of enrollment services and student success, said most students, including veterans, shouldn't have  problems getting their aid -- and if they do, officials say the university will work with them.

"If there's any slowdown, they (students) will get their interest charges reversed," Reynolds said. "We don't drop people from classes."

Reynolds added that tuition isn't due until the end of October anyway, and she said she doubts the shutdown will last that long.

In the meantime, Ludwig said she's hoping for the best, preparing for the worst -- and is disappointed in Congress.

"It's really sad that our country's leadership can't take care of us," she said.