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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