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'We are going to have fatalities' among veterans if shutdown continues, union leader says

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About one-third of the federal workforce consists of veterans

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Veterans groups say the continuing government shutdown will have a disproportionate negative impact on veterans the longer it goes on, potentially leading to deaths, according to ABC News.

The federal government has been shut down for nearly three weeks, and federal workers will soon begin missing paychecks. That financial hardship can be particularly dangerous for veterans.

"Financial instability is one of the main causes of suicides among the veterans' community," a statement from the Union Veterans Council read. "These hardworking men and women who sacrificed so much for their country should not have their families held hostage by lawmakers that cannot relate to living paycheck to paycheck."

Significant number of veterans impacted: Veterans make up one-third of the federal workforce, and the veteran population can be more susceptible to suicide. One union leader thinks the government shutdown could lead directly to veteran deaths, calling it "shameful" and said it was "slapping every veteran in the face who has served their country."

"If this shutdown does not stop, we are going to have fatalities," said Edward Canales, a local union president with the American Federation of Government Employees. "We're going to have suicides."

Federal employees increasingly upset: The government shutdown over whether or not to fund a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border has left some federal employees, including veterans, feeling used and mistreated for political purposes.

"It's not acceptable as a veteran, as a federal employee, as an air traffic controller to use my profession and my livelihood as a political football," Air Force veteran Toby Hauck told ABC News.

How to get help: Between 2008 and 2016, more than 6,000 veterans committed suicide each year, with veteran adults 1.5 times more likely to commit suicide than non-veteran adults.

Veterans who are struggling with a crisis, or those who know a veteran in crisis, can contact the Veterans Crisis Line by calling 1-800-273-8255 or by sending a text message to 838255.

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