Charity steps up to help grieving military families during shutdown

SEATTLE — At Fisher House in Seattle, Cecile Bagrow, the charity’s director, helps families of veterans throughout the Northwest by providing a place for them to stay while loved ones receive treatment at the nearby VA hospital.

“They’re wonderful people and they do miraculous things for their patients,” Bagrow said. “They want some respite, they need respite here at Fisher House, and it’s my job to make them feel safe and comfortable so they can help the patient.”

Jeremiah M. Collins Jr.Fisher House has 63 homes around the country that help soldier’s families. Now, the charity is stepping up to help the families of the fallen, because the government can’t.

“We learned of the gap in death benefits for the families and this was one of those ‘no brainer’ decisions for us,” Ken Fisher, chairman of Fisher House, said.

Fisher House will now cover the $100,000 reimbursement to families of soldiers killed in combat, to help cover funeral costs and other expenses for as long as the government shutdown continues.

Word of that agreement with the Pentagon came as the bodies of four soldiers killed in Afghanistan began arriving at Dover Air Force Base, Del., including Army Lt. Jennifer Moreno, a nurse who was assigned to Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

The outrage over death benefits being held up pushed members in the U.S. House to pass an emergency bill early Wednesday.

“Let it be said loudly and clearly here in the House of Representatives that we will never leave a fallen comrade,” Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., said.

But before the bill made it to the Senate, the Pentagon announced the agreement with Fisher House to keep the payments flowing to families, until the shutdown is over.

“When a serviceman or woman raises their right hand and takes the oath to go into the military to defend this nation, we as a people also take an oath that if they are wounded, we’ll take care of them,” Fisher said. He was told the charity will be reimbursed by the government once the shutdown ends.

“And if they don’t make it home, we’ll also take care of their families.”

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