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Shutdown means no death benefits for families of fallen soldiers

SEATTLE — The government shutdown is now delaying death benefits to families of soldiers killed in combat.

Over the weekend, four Americans were killed in combat, including 1st Lt. Jennifer Moreno, assigned to Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

military“We are all deeply saddened by the tragic loss of this great American Soldier,” said Col. Ramona Fiorey, Madigan Army Medical Center commander. “We’ve lost a superb officer and a caring nurse.”

Moreno’s family has been notified it will not receive the $100,000 benefit normally given to relatives to help cover funeral costs and expenses. They also won’t be flown to Dover Air Force Base to witness the return of their loved one.

Following is CNN story out of Washington, D.C.:

A lapse in benefits normally paid to the families of U.S. service members killed in combat is adding to the already existing anger over the partial federal government shutdown.

With a good majority of the Pentagon workforce returning to work despite large-scale furloughs hitting other federal agencies, the benefits typically paid to families of the fallen have yet to be restored during the current government shutdown.

“This particular situation is unthinkable,” Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., said on the House floor Tuesday. “A great injustice is being done to our service members and their families.”

Among the benefits being withheld are a $100,000 cash payment typically paid to a service member’s family within three days of their death in the combat zone. Burial benefits, which include reimbursement for recovery, care, as well as the funeral and interment of remains are also included in those benefits.

A gratuity for travel to funeral or memorial services, or for travel to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware where the remains of the fallen typically go to upon return to the United States, are also included in the benefits to family members.

For people like Amy Neiberger-Miller, who lost her brother Chris in Iraq, the loss of these benefits to families comes as they are living their” worst nightmare.”

For “families with limited means, these benefits are especially critical,” said Neiberger-Miller, who now works T.A.P.S., a support network for families of the fallen.

In addition to the death benefits, emergency funding used to support certain intelligence activities, as well as certain funding for commanders on the ground, are also currently unfunded according to the Pentagon.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel noted the lapse in benefits in a meeting with top Defense Department officials on Monday, and assured them “he would work closely with them to address these challenges,” according to a written readout of the meeting.

In a letter to Hagel, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., said the lapse in funding was due to a “careless legal interpretation” by the Pentagon to a resolution passed by Congress prior to the shutdown that called for the continuation of all benefits to military families.

“I am at a loss about why [the Department of Defense] did not take a more active role in notifying Congress and insisting that changes in law occur immediately,” Hunter wrote. “And until a correction is made to the law, it is up to you to make the appropriate judgment based on a more correct interpretation.”

Republicans are drafting legislation that would restore death benefit payments, which the Pentagon says were frozen under the shutdown, to the survivors of service members killed in action, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers told CNN.

Discord over the lapse in funding was seemingly bipartisan.

“I want immediately for the $100,000 death benefit and flight to Dover to be immediately given to these families,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D.TX) said on the House floor Tuesday. “I am reaching out to the Pentagon, writing a letter and asking that this be immediately resolved.”

Fisher House, a group that offers assistance to families of troops in need, has offered an advance grant to such families during the shutdown, according to a letter from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., to Hagel.

A spokeswoman for Fisher House said the group would work out a repayment plan with the families once the government begins to reimburse the death benefits.

“We’re also already helping several of them with free airline tickets, and of course, most will be staying at our Dover Fisher House,” the spokeswoman said in a written statement. “If the house is full, we’ll pay the hotel bill and any incidentals.”

 

5 comments

  • Skip

    The Republicans are playing games and getting paid too and that is very sad. How are they going to make-up the billions wasted on their stupid shutdown adventure?

    • Anonymous

      Lol! You’ve had too much koolaid! The Republicans are what’s keeping this country from sinking into a dictatorship. Obama has instructed Harry Reid to table ANY bills the House passes, Obama has promised to veto any piecemeal spending bills from the House, contracted civilian Catholic priests face arrest if they volunteer to say Mass for our troops, Obama has instructed National Park Rangers to “be as difficult as possible” to the American public, he has instructed armed park officials to keep Americans out of national parks (which is more than an ambassador in Libya was given) and you’re telling me the Republicans are destroying the country? Try again. They are doing what the majority of Americans want, to get rid of the this enormously unpopular law known as the Affordable Care Act (which was conceived in secrecy and Nancy Pelosi even said “we need to pass it to see what’s in it.”). Yeah you’re so right! I mean look how well Democrats ran Detriot. Oh wait, it’s bankrupt, which is exactly where we’re headed. Our debt to GDP ratio is 73% and at this rate we’re going to hit 100% by 2038. Do us a favor and NEVER vote again!

  • NCLEX Preceptor

    How awful for a nurse to be killed while on duty. I admire the bravery of nurse Moreno.

    I am a nurse educator and I help prepare nursing students pass the NCLEX Examination. My website has sample NCLEX questions, useful tips and free mobile application that is geared towards a successful review of the topics covered in the NCLEX exam. Visit http://www.nursepreceptor.com to know more.

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