The government shutdown has hit four families in the hardest way possible. Recently, four American soldiers were killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, reports the Pentagon, and another killed in the Helmand Province However, because of the shutdown, it is uncertain that the families of the deceased will be able to meet their newly departed family members.
Usually, in the case of a military death, the Department of Defense would fly the family of the departed to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to meet with the deceased. But because of the shutdown, these benefits, including the $100,000 “death gratuity” paid to families, have been denied. This denial essentially forces the families to grieve at the pace its takes for the Pentagon to iron out how they’re going to handle the families losses.
The “death gratuity” is a highly important benefit for grieving families. It helps the family cover funeral costs, travel expenses, and aids in the financial transition that occurs as a result of the sudden loss of income. Defense One reported that the Pentagon did acknowledge the dire situation, but responded that “it’s hands were tied.”
Another thing that make the “death gratuity” so important is the timeliness in which it’s delivered, by wire within 36 hours, as opposed to waiting for weeks on the insurance companies for compensation.
Last week, Congress passed the Pay Our Military Act, which is meant to ensure that those serving in our military still got paid in the event of a government shutdown. The issue with the bill, however, was that drafters of the bill just threw the legislation together to have such a law on the books. This resulted in a poorly drafted bill that only created more questions among servicemen and women about their pay.
“We’ve had a number of people die recently and we will be able to pay them, but not until the lapse of appropriation ends,” said Pentagon Comptroller Bob Hale of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s interpretation of the bill. “We’re trying to be helpful through aid societies and other to the family members who are involved in these tragic circumstances. But unforutnately, we don’t have the legal authority to make those payments.”