By Debbie Gregory.
Last October, when Congress’ stalemate led to a sixteen day government shutdown, the families of five recent KIA service members were further tormented when they were faced with a delay in receiving their $100,000 payment. “Death gratuity” payments are used by families to help cover the costs of meeting and receiving their fallen loved one’s remains, and then laying them to rest. When these payments were in jeopardy, the Fischer House Foundation graciously offered to immediately forward the money to the families, until the shutdown ended. The foundation also offered to pay for travel and lodging for the families to meet their fallen warrior’s remains. In 2013, the Fisher House Foundation also paid for 22,000 other families to see their wounded service members in military hospitals and recovery centers.
Last October, Congress unanimously agreed to adjust legislation to award the five families their entitled benefits. The Honoring the Families of the Fallen Act made it mandatory that death benefits be paid to families, even during a government shutdown. However, the changes made then were only temporary and expire at the end of fiscal year 2014.
Recently, Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.) introduced legislation that would permanently allow the Defense Department to continue making death benefits payments to the families of fallen soldiers, even during a government shutdown.
Barber’s bill, H.R. 4274 proposes to adjust the Honoring the Families of the Fallen Act to say the DOD is authorized in any fiscal year to make death gratuity payments, even if there is a lapse of government funding.
MilitaryConnection.com believes that Veterans and their families deserve the best that the country can give them for their service. But the men and women who die while in service to their country should be honored above all else. Their sacrifice, their honor, their entitlements and their families should be considered sacred, especially by the government they died supporting. There is no question that H.R. 4274 needs to be approved or improved upon and then approved.
Families of fallen service members deserve all of the help and support that we as a nation can give them. If you or someone you know has lost a loved one in the service to their country, please refer the survivors to the Tragedy Assistance programs for Survivors (TAPS). MilitaryConnection.com is a proud supported of TAPS and all that they do for grieving military families and families of wounded Veterans.