Military death benefits to be paid to families of the fallen
WASHINGTON – Families of fallen troops will be assured of receiving death benefits under legislation President Barack Obama signed Thursday amid a national firestorm after the Pentagon suspended the roughly $100,000 payments during the partial government shutdown.
Obama signed the bill into law after it won final passage in the Senate earlier in the day.
His chief spokesman, Jay Carney, had said the measure was unnecessary because a military charity had stepped in to continue the payments. Carney also had declined to say whether Obama would sign the bill, which reinstates benefits for surviving family members, including funeral and burial expenses, and death gratuity payments.
The Pentagon typically pays out $100,000 within three days of a service member’s death. It said 29 active-duty service members have died since Oct. 1, when parts of the government shut down in a dispute between the White House and Congress over the president’s health care law.
The Pentagon had said the lapse in funding meant it had no authority to continue the payments, but that explanation that did not sit well with members of Congress in either party. The Pentagon said a law allowing members of the military to be paid during the shutdown did not cover the death benefit payments.
In stepped the Fisher House Foundation, which Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday would cover the costs during the shutdown.