10/15/13 7:00am
10/15/2013 7:00 AM
JOHN NEEELY FILE PHOTO | Calverton National Cemetery.

JOHN NEEELY FILE PHOTO | Calverton National Cemetery.

While large portions of the federal government remain ground to a halt as federal lawmakers stand across the bargaining table from one another, Calverton National Cemetery has been unaffected since the day the so-called “shutdown” began Oct. 1.

But sometime next week, that could change.

If no deal is reached in Washington, D.C., two-thirds of the staff at Calverton National Cemetery, the country’s largest burial ground for veterans, will be furloughed Oct. 22. In that event, the cemetery’s work force would drop from 100 to just over  30, resulting in delayed interments.

While veterans affairs could be considered a nonpartisan issue — especially compared to Obamacare, the issue at the heart of the shutdown — Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) said last week that he doesn’t see the logic in passing legislation that would  before a final deal is made.

“There have been a series of bills Republicans have brought to the floor to reopen a slice of the government,” he said in a conference call Friday with members of the media. “What we say is, ‘Let’s reopen all of the government.’

“Should we allow burials to slow down at Calverton? Of course not. But the answer should be to reopen the entire government. Not pick and choose which parts we want to,” Mr. Bishop said.

The cemetery is funded through the National Cemetery Association, which falls under the purview of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The department is funded in two-year cycles — unlike most departments, which are funded year-by-year — so operations at Calverton, and much of the VA, have so far not been impacted by the impasse to the same degree as the rest of the federal government.

The Calverton cemetery conducts approximately 30 to 40 burials per day on its 1,045 acres, about 800 of which need to be maintained on a regular basis.

Kristen Parker, a spokesperson for the NCA, said that in the event that the shutdown hits national cemeteries, the government would “do whatever it can not to delay a burial. And it would likely be a day or two. Not weeks.”

Funeral homes would be responsible for holding the bodies of deceased veterans while they await their final resting place, according to Parker. In addition, she said, relatives of those who died would still be cared for during any delay in the process.

But many veterans have already had enough. Just after the shutdown hit, a group of vets arrived in Washington to find that they had to remove barricades at the World War II memorial, which had been shut down. And last weekend, Reuters reported that veterans groups took it one step further, removing the barricades and placing them on the lawn of the White House.

“I don’t even know if the government would feel bad [if burials were delayed],” said Frank Bania, who runs Boots on the Ground NY, a veterans group that organizes PTSD support groups, motorcycle cavalcades and other efforts to help veterans.

The former commander of Riverhead VFW Post 2476, Joe Edler, said, “I have a funny feeling this should be settled fast, or else I think they’re going to hurt a lot of veterans.”

If no deal is reached by the end of the month, Mr. Bishop said, the country may not be able to pay out $12 billion in active duty and veterans benefits.

jpinciaro@timesreview.com

10/12/13 8:00am
10/12/2013 8:00 AM

Capitol

Working in local media, it can be hard to keep up with the news beyond our coverage area. “Did you hear about ______?” my wife will sometimes ask after I get home from work. Whether it’s a natural disaster, a big splash in the sports world or something out of Washington, D.C., my response is often just, “I saw the headline. Wait. What was that about?”

JOSEPH PINCIARO

So when I started hearing more, and then some more, about what was happening in the nation’s capital Oct. 1 — the “federal government shutdown” as it was being labeled — my interest was piqued. But still, local news called. Plus, the phrase “government shutdown” struck me as indicating that the entire conflict was being a bit overplayed. Will martial law ensue? I doubt it. Back to the grind.

While I have yet to see any ships storm the coast of the North Fork, plundering our fields and rip asunder our families, it turns out this national headline has affected us here in the Times/Review newsroom a little more than I expected. Which means it’s also affected you — the reader.

Perhaps most noticeably — at least for us at the paper — Newsday broke a story Oct. 1 about a drug sting in Riverhead led by the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Unit. Reporter Paul Squire worked hard to get some original reporting of his own done as soon as we heard about it, but his hands were largely tied.

When he arrived at the federal courthouse in Central Islip on Wednesday, just two of about a dozen desks were occupied, with no criminal complaint on the case to be found. Typically inputted in the federal court’s system by then, it was not made available until late Thursday night. Once he got it, Paul was able to put together a 1,350-word report detailing exactly how federal agents uncovered nearly 1,700 marijuana plants inside a nondescript Osborn Avenue home. The news was up two days later — which can be considered a long time in today’s news cycle.

Mug shots for the men — both currently facing 10 years to life on charges of distribution of a controlled substance — remain unavailable because the media contact for New York’s Eastern District Court is still out of work.

Pot busts weren’t the only story we were covering that reached the federal level, though.

Carrie Miller penned a front-page article recently about the immigrant workforce on the North Fork. Finding something as simple as U.S. Department of Agriculture data for a potential follow-up was no longer possible once that department shut down its website. And who knows when it will be available once — or maybe more like it, if — leaders in the nation’s capital come to an agreement.

The website simply states: “After funding has been restored, please allow some time for this website to become available again.”

It was the same message I got Oct. 1 while looking around for some background information on USDA sharpshooters.

And how about writing an actual news story about local impacts of the shutdown itself? It’s hard to get too much detail about something when the people whose job it is to relay information to the press aren’t working, our congressman’s spokesman being the lone exception, I’ve found. But even he couldn’t track down info for us relating to Plum Island — since nobody was there to receive his requests.

So on some recent evenings, it turns out, I’ve had something to say when my wife has asked me about national news.

Apparently 800,000 people losing their jobs is some kind of news story.

Joseph Pinciaro is the managing editor of The News-Review. He can be reached at jpinciaro@timesreview.com or 631-298-3200, ext. 238. Follow him on Twitter @cjpinch.

10/01/13 1:44pm
10/01/2013 1:44 PM
Democrat, Congressman, New York

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop.

The following list of local offices and services impacted by the federal government shutdown was provided by Congressman Tim Bishop’s press office. We will update it as more information, including reports on the Plum Island research facility, becomes available:

Social Security District Office

The office in Patchogue is open to handle urgent issues such as appeals and benefit applications. Applications for a social security number and to replace a social security card (about 100 requests are received per day) will not be processed.

Social Security benefit payments will not be affected, and will be delivered on time.

Army Corps of Engineers

The Superstorm Sandy supplemental appropriations legislation will continue to fund work on Sandy-related construction projects including the Fire Island to Montauk Point Study and the emergency project to stabilize the beach in Downtown Montauk. Impact on Sandy construction projects and other future operations could be affected in the event of a prolonged shutdown.

106th Rescue Wing at Gabreski Air Base

All or nearly all of the 218 “dual status” technicians who had been previously furloughed due to sequestration budget cuts will now be furloughed for the duration of the shutdown.

Calverton National Cemetery

Operations at the Cemetery are fully funded until Oct.15. Should the shutdown continue past that date, approximately two-thirds of the cemetery’s 100 employees will be furloughed, leading to reductions in the number of burials performed and maintenance such as groundskeeping at the cemetery.

Stony Brook University

The direct student loan program will not be affected.

The payment management system at the National Institutes of Health, SBU’s largest source of research funds, will be available, but administrative support will not. Researchers can draw down money from their grants unless the request needs to be reviewed or approved. New grant applications can be filed but they will not be acted upon until the workforce returns.

Federal Wildlife Preserves

Fire Island National Seashore will be closed to visitors. Residents and contractors will still be able to access Fire Island at Robert Moses State Park.

Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge in Shirley and Morton National Wildlife Refuge in Noyac will be closed.

IRS Facility

The IRS field office and the Taxpayer Advocate Service is also closed, employees are furloughed.

US Customs and Immigration Service

The USCIS field office in Holtsville and the entire agency is operating at full capacity because they are primarily funded by user fees.