So far, 17 families have been left in the cold on death benefit payouts of $100,000 for their killed-in-action military loved ones because of the failure of U.S. authorities to clarify how the payout should proceed during the government shutdown.
And they are outraged.
"They killed my boy," said Randall Patterson, the father of Pfc. Cody J. Patterson, who died during recent military duty, NBC reported. Mr. Patterson said he was flying from Oregon to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to witness the unloading of his son's remains — and all he wanted was a scotch on the rocks. In a scathing statement to the Army, he said: "It better be on that tray. I don't care if you have to pay for it out of your own pocket."
Normally, the $100,000 death benefit the military issues within 36 hours to family of troops killed during service would take care of such matters. But the government shutdown has prompted the halting of the payout, leaving family of the 17 military troops who have died in recent days scrambling to get to Dover or to take care of other necessary financial matters.
The benefit pays up to $9,000 for a funeral and a flight to Dover, a year's worth of housing allowance and related costs, for a total of $100,000. Seventeen service members have died since the start of the shutdown — and not one of those members' families has received the payout within the mandated 36 hours, the Daily Mail reported.
"The government is hurting the wrong people," said Shannon Collins, who lost her son, Marine Lance Cpl. Jeremiah Collins Jr., this past weekend, NBC reported. "Families shouldn't have to worry about how they're going to bury their child. Families shouldn't have to worry about how they're going to feed their family if they don't go to work this week."
Congress on Tuesday said it was going to pass a quick bill to fix the problem. Lawmakers said the Pay Our Military Act also would give the Department of Defense all the authority it needs to pay for the military expenses, but military officials said that's not true.
One Pentagon official said to the New York Daily News that the measure Congress passed did not allow "any payments to family members of service members, and therefore cannot be used to legally justify the payment of survivor benefits."
In the meantime, several nonprofit and private groups have stepped up to provide funding for the families. Luke's Wings has offered to fly some of the family members to Dover for free. A grass-roots group has established a fundraising presence at FundRazr.com under the heading "Help the families of five fallen service members." And another group, the Fisher House, has agreed to cover some of the expenses for family members.
"It is upsetting because my husband died for my country and now his family is left to worry," said yet another family member, Ashley Peters, to NBC.
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