Families of fallen soldiers to receive bodies, no benefits


100% recycled karma
A cargo plane carrying the bodies of four fallen U.S. soldiers will land at Dover Air Force Base Wednesday morning, greeted by loved ones whose grief is laced with outrage that even they have not been spared from the government shutdown.

The solemn transfer ceremony is expected to take place in an atmosphere of tearful silence about 100 miles from the political bickering in the nation's capital, where a death benefit for the families of service members killed in the line of duty has fallen victim to the budget impasse.

The chaplain of the Senate, Barry Black, directly invoked the denial of the benefit in his daily opening prayer before the chamber.

“Lord, when our federal shutdown delays payments of death benefits to the families of children dying on far-away battlefields, it’s time for our lawmakers to say enough is enough,” he said. “Cover our shame with the robe of your righteousness

In an apparent effort to stem the furor, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel plans to travel to Dover for the arrival of the bodies.A white-gloved honor guard carries four flag-covered cases out of the belly of the military jet, past waiting relatives and into a mortuary vehicle so the bodies of the three men and one woman who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan can be prepared for their final resting place.

At least two of the families who will be in attendance say their heartache has been compounded by a repercussion of the shutdown:
the government withholding a $100,000 "death gratuity" normally paid out to help tide them over until survivor benefits kick in, as detailed in a series of NBC News stories over the past two days, beginning with an Andrea Mitchell report on TODAY.

“It is upsetting because my husband died for his country, and now his family is left to worry,” said Ashley Peters of Springfield, Mo., whose husband, Joseph, was a special agent assigned to the Army’s 5th Military Police Battalion and was among the four killed.
“My husband always said if something happened to him we would be taken care of.”

The House is expected to approve legislation Wednesday afternoon, perhaps unanimously, that would restore the benefit. Some members of Congress were surprised that it was not covered by a law passed just before the shutdown that authorized “pay and allowances” for the military.

The House will use a procedure that allows legislation to go straight to the floor without committee hearings. Because of that procedure, the bill will need a two-thirds majority to pass.

The father of one of the fallen soldiers, Pfc. Cody Patterson, 24, of Philomath, Ore., noted that members of Congress "are still getting paid" a week after the government shut down.

“If Congress were trapped in a car that sunk down in a river, I would swim to the window, and I would look them all in the eye and say, ‘Suck water,’” Randall Patterson said Tuesday as he prepared to fly to Delaware to retrieve his son's body.

Peters; Patterson; 1st Lt. Jennifer Moreno, 25, of San Diego; Sgt. Patrick Hawkins, 25, of Carlisle, Pa.; were killed Sunday by an improvised bomb in Zhari district, according to the Pentagon.

Seventeen service members have died since the government shut down Oct. 1, a senior defense official said, including six in Afghanistan.
None has so far received the death gratuity.

Also suspended is a year’s worth of housing allowance, typically paid in a lump sum to the surviving spouse or dependent children of a soldier.
For a sergeant in the Washington area with dependents, it could amount to more than $2,000 a month.

Congressional aides said they believed that last week's law had covered the payment.

"We gave broad authority to the Department of Defense to pay all kinds of bills, including this," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Tuesday afternoon. "And frankly, I think it's disgraceful that they're withholding these benefits. But again, tomorrow, the House is going to act specifically on this, and I hope the president will sign it."

In the meantime, a Maryland foundation stepped into the breach to potentially cover the death benefits.
The Fisher House Foundation of Bethesda, Md., has offered the families of fallen soldiers advance grants until the government can make reimbursements to the foundation.

The grants will also cover flights, hotels and other incidentals, it said.
I can't even count the so many ways this is screwed up; House claims there is discression to pay ; Senate had a 'tearjerker' session last night -
after ignoring this for a couple days.

Congress iS GETTING PAID, and a charity has to step in for incidental expense.

Hagel has to scramble over to Dover AFB to look all grieving to cover the Executive branch.

None of which actually addresses the problems of perpetual war, "transitioning" in AfPak, and Congress screwing around for another week playing chicken with the closed gov't, and debt ceiling.

Amerika at it's finest.
how I wish both partys placed this country over their party.

This is what happens when you have a party that hates government and you allow them to cheat their way into office
Love the use of the term perpetual war!
did the bodies arrive? I kinna wanted to see that ( not being voyeristic) I mean I wanted to see Hagel, who USED to be reliably anti-war (much like Kerry),

until they SOLD OUT, for Obama's INSANE escalation/de-escalation of the Afganistan theater. Freaking war pigs - all of them
Kerry sounds like a warhawk as secretary unlike the journalist invoking gengus khan comparison on his fellow american soldiers. Power corrupts, he didn't have it then he does now.
House: We authorized Death Gratuity

.....that there is no reason for the Pentagon to claim they don’t have the funds or the authority to pay out those benefits.

“In the last week of September, the Department of Defense’s Comptroller Robert Hale warned that the death gratuity and other benefits would be affected by shutdown,” this aide said.

“Following week, Congress passed, and the President signed the Pay Our Military Act which included authorization for all military benefits. Everyone felt relieved, believing military pay and benefits are protected.”

Then Thursday and Friday of last week, the aide said he and other Republican colleagues started to hear whispers from third parties that there was a problem with Death Gratuity.

The House wasn’t notified by the Obama administration or made aware that Department of Defense felt they lacked authorization to pay that benefit.

On Friday, in response to the rumors, Congressman Joe Wilson sent this letter to Sec Hagel asking whether there was a problem with paying the death gratuity or other benefits, and whether this or any other benefits required specific authorizations from Congress.

There was never a response from Obama Administration or DoD to the Congressional inquiry.

“Tuesday morning, we learn on NBC’s Today Show –not from DoD– that there are four KIAs coming home, and their families will not receive the death gratuity,” the aide said. “The only warning we had was from George Little on Twitter.

He’s referring to this tweet: ”Congress needs to act to end ‪#shutdown. https://twitter.com/search?q=#shutdown&src=hash
Awful that we do not currently have authority to pay death gratuities for families of fallen heroes.”

The Wilson letter to Hagel specifically asked about the death gratuity, as well as benefits for covering burial costs.

“What legal justifications are Pentagon lawyers using to say they did not have authorization to pay the death gratuity?” this aide asks.

What other benefits will DoD retroactively decide they cannot pay?

Will we have to vote for every benefit, despite the broad authorization that we gave them in the Pay Our Military Act?”

The House is scheduled to vote on the bill specifically stating that the Pentagon is authorized to pay out the death gratuity.

“I don’t know why DoD felt like they needed authorization for this single benefit out of 60 or so, but even my cynical brain is unwilling to

contemplate the possibility that the Obama Administration’s sudden interest in fundamentalist interpretations of the law is related to heroes coming home to us in a box,” the aide concludes.
You gotta wonder..DoD doesn't respond, Hageol doesn't repsond, is this just a complete (as ususl) FUBAR?

Or is there real attempt to obfuscate/ dump this problem in Congress's lap; when Congress actually did authorize?
Maybe it's just the lawyers fault..
Outrage over a delay in death benefits to families of fallen servicemembers prompted Congress and the Pentagon on Wednesday to hastily restore the payments.

The House voted 425-0 to restore the benefit, but prospects for the same action in the Senate remained unclear.

The actions came as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel flew to Dover Air Force Base, Del., to meet, before television cameras, the remains of four soldiers killed Sunday in a roadside bomb blast in Afghanistan.

Along with a 19-year-old Marine and a 27-year-old Army specialist who both died Saturday, they are among the first whose families faced delays of the $100,000 death gratuity along with other expenses unless funding was restored or the government reopened.

But Hagel tried to blame the refusal to make the payments of Republicans, even though it was the Department of Defense that refused to authorize the benefits even though a special funding act sailed through Congress and the President himself signed it last week.

"I am offended, outraged and embarrassed that the government shutdown had prevented the Department of Defense from fulfilling this sacred responsibility in a timely manner," Hagel said.

About half of the Defense Department's civilian employees were furloughed, but Hagel ordered nearly all 350,000 back on the job.

If he could order 350,000 civilians back to work during the shutdown, why couldn't he order death benefits be paid to 26 grieving families?