At least five families of U.S. military members killed during in Afghanistan over the weekend were given a double-whammy by federal officials: Not only have your loved ones died, but due to the government shutdown, you won’t receive a death benefit.
The benefit is $100,000 and is wired to family members of the killed military member within 36 hours of the death. The so-called “death gratuity” is aimed at paying for funeral costs and to help with those living expenses normally covered by the soldier’s paycheck.
They serve as a transition pay benefit until the military’s survivor benefits begin.
The $100,000 also helps military families fly to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, while the coffins carrying their loved ones are being unloaded
The Pentagon revealed the elimination of funeral pay, along with other impacts of the shutdown, in a press release.
“The department does not currently have the authority to pay death gratuities for the survivors of service members killed in action – typically a cash payment of $100,000 paid within three days of the death of a service member,” the release read.
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“Secretary [of Defense Chuck] Hagel assured the service leaders that he would work closely with them to address these challenges, and support the service members and families impacted by these disruptions,” it continued.
A senior military official told NBC’s “Today” that he was “disgusted” by the scenario, but hopes a resolution might be reached to resume the benefit this week.
“Washington may be shut down, but it’s still asking people to go to war,” said Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, with the Council on Foreign Relations. “When people realize that they can serve and fight for their country, but that their families will get an I.O.U. until the shutdown is over, I think they’re just shocked.”
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• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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