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article imageShutdown stops death benefit payments to US veterans

By Robert Weller     Oct 8, 2013 in Politics
Americans are being reminded that the war in Afghanistan is still going on as families of US soldiers killed there are being denied death benefits.
The cost of the ongoing war in Afghanistan is a front page story again.
The families of five soldiers who died there last week have been denied death benefits because of the government shutdown, the New York Times reports.
Their families were only able to pay for airline tickets to fly to meet their bodies at Dover, Del., because a veterans' group intervened, according to the Huffington Post.
The families should have received $100,000 within three days to cover expenses until survivor’s benefits kicked.
For Republicans, this will just be another example of how the government should have ignored the shutdown and sent money. But the GOP and Tea Party shouldn't be surprised. Most of the workers who report on government spending are at home, and therefore regular spending reports are not being issued.
The Pentagon said it cannot send money it does not have.
"The [Defense Department] does not currently have the authority to pay death gratuities for the survivors of service members killed in action," the release said, adding: “Secretary [of Defense Chuck] Hagel assured the service leaders that he would work closely with them to address these challenges, and support the service members and families impacted by these disruptions."
Veterans' groups were outraged.
“When the serviceman swears that oath that says ‘I will protect and defend,’ we make a promise back to that person that if they do die in service to this country that we will take care of their family,” Ami Neiberger-Miller of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors which advocates on behalf of military families, told news site Defense One.
"The government is hurting the wrong people," Shannon Collins, who lost her son, Jeremiah, during the weekend in Afghanistan, told NBC.
"Families shouldn’t have to worry about how they’re going to bury their child. Families shouldn’t have to worry about how they're going to feed their family if they don’t go to work this week."
The Congress did pass an authorization to pay the wages of soldiers and civilian soldiers immediately after the shutdown. Republicans said this should have covered the death benefits and other costs.
“The fact that the House is developing new legislation on this matter shows Congress fully understands that D.O.D. does not have the legal authority to provide these death benefits,” a senior military official told the Times. “Secretary Hagel is outraged and disgusted by this situation, but the law is clear.”
Four of the five soldiers died in roadside bomb attack.
More about Afghanistan, Veterans, Death benefits, Casualties, Republicans
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