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Pittsburgh rally coincides with D.C. veterans' protest of shutdown closures

| Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013, 4:33 p.m.

Scott Filsinger shook his head slowly Sunday, thinking about the impact of the federal government shutdown.

“For World War II vets to be shut out of publicly funded monuments is inexcusable. This is all because of Obama's temper tantrum so he gets his way,” Filsinger, 28, an Army veteran from Murrysville, said as his wife, Ashley, rounded up their four sons after a protest in the South Side.

The rally, which attracted about three dozen protesters, was among several dozen held in conjunction with a Million Vet March in Washington to object to veterans being locked out of the World War II Memorial since the Oct. 1 shutdown.

The Washington event, featuring Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, attracted a large crowd of veterans and their families, some of whom picked up metal barricades in the park and marched off with them, vowing to barricade the White House.

Ashley Filsinger said outrage over the memorial closure spurred her to organize the local protest, but she conceded her family has a personal stake in the shutdown. Her husband is disabled from a traumatic brain injury he received while on duty stateside from 2006-08. His young family relies on his military disability benefits and a caregiver's stipend Ashley receives to make ends meet.

Last week, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki told Congress if the budget stalemate is not resolved by Nov. 1, the agency will not be able to process disability benefits, stipends and tuition payments to 5.2 million veterans and their families.

“That's our income. Everyone thinks you can just go out and get a job, but that's not the case. They get disability because they can't work,” Ashley Filsinger said.

Likewise, post-9/11 veterans attending college could lose their housing stipends.

Although the war memorials in Washington reopened last week for “First Amendment activities,” the budget stalemate that triggered the shutdown continues.

Anger directed at the Obama administration continued to simmer among protesters as members of the House and Senate huddled.

“Obama is the first president to do this during a shutdown,” said Deneen Sherlock of Clairton, as she and her son, John, wrapped up their flags to leave the Pittsburgh protest.

In Washington, protesters chanted “Tear down these walls” and “You work for us,” as they cut apart links between the barriers that remained at the National Mall. Some carried barricades to the White House and rallied outside the gates, confronting police in riot gear.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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