Obama Freezes Benefits for Families of Fallen Military

Family Security Matters

It’s another ugly symptom of the partial government shutdown — and  this  time it impacts the families of soldiers who are dying for their   country. 

The Pentagon confirmed Tuesday that, as long as the budget impasse  lasts, it  will not be able to pay death benefits to the families of  troops who’ve been  killed in combat. 

“Unfortunately, as a result of the shutdown, we do not have the legal   authority to make death gratuity payments at this time,” said Lt. Cmdr.  Nate  Christensen, a Defense Department spokesman. “However, we are  keeping a close  eye on those survivors who have lost loved ones serving  in the Department of  Defense.” 

House lawmakers, though, are planning to vote Wednesday on a bill to  restore  funding for the payments. And Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday  accused the Obama  administration of needlessly withholding the money. 

Boehner claimed a bill passed by Congress and signed by the president  last  week to pay America’s troops should have given the Pentagon the  latitude “to  pay all kinds of bills, including this.” 

“I think it’s disgraceful that they’re withholding these benefits,”  Boehner  said, urging Obama to sign the bill that the House will take up  on  Wednesday. 

The bill would still have to pass the Senate before arriving on  Obama’s  desk. If that bill fails to pass, the Pentagon says, families  will be  reimbursed once Congress passes an appropriations bill. 

The Pentagon says it has specific instructions from its budget office  not to  make payments for deaths that occurred after 11:59 p.m. on Sept.  30,  2013. 

Over the weekend, four soldiers — two of them Army Rangers — and  one  Marine were killed while conducting combat operations in  Afghanistan. The  bodies of the four soldiers will be returned to Dover  Air Force Base on  Wednesday. 

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