House Scrambles to Reinstate Troop Death Benefits During Shutdown

Susan Walsh/AP

AA Font size + Print

The House Appropriations Committee is drafting a bill that will let Congress pay death benefits to families of troops killed in action during the shutdown. By Stephanie Gaskell

This story has been updated.

The House Appropriations Committee is drafting legislation that would allow the government to immediately pay “death gratuity” benefits to families of any troops killed in action during the shutdown.

The bill could be introduced as early as Tuesday, committee spokeswoman Jennifer Hing told Defense One. It’s still being written, but the bill will allow Congress to pay the full $100,000 death gratuity payment that’s supposed to reach the family within 36 hours of a servicemembers’ death.

The House is moving quickly to bring the bill for a vote after public outrage grew when five servicemembers were killed in Afghanistan over the weekend.

The fact that the House is developing new legislation on this matter shows Congress fully understands that DoD does not have the legal authority to provide these death benefits,” a senior defense official told Defense One. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel “is outraged and disgusted by this situation, but the law as written is inadequate.”

And while President Obama said veterans and troops in harm’s way shouldn’t suffer from the shutdown, it’s unclear whether he would sign the bill. When asked during a White House briefing on Tuesday why he hasn’t signed any piecemeal legislation to fully fund essential agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Food and Drug Administration, Obama said he’s “tempted.”

“But here’s the problem,” he said. “What you’ve seen are bills that come up where wherever Republicans are feeling political pressure, they put a bill forward. And if there’s no political heat, if there’s no television story on it, then nothing happens. And if we do some sort of shotgun approach like that, then you’ll have some programs that are highly visible get funded and reopened, like national monuments, but things that don’t get a lot of attention, like those SBA [Small Business Association] loans, not being funded.”

[Read more at Defense One - Shutdown Shame: Denying Troop Death Benefits]

“And you know, we don’t get to select which programs we implement or not. You know, there are a whole bunch of things that the Republicans have said are law that we have to do. And I don’t get a chance to go back and say, you know what, this cockamamie idea that this Republican congressman came up with I really don’t like, so let’s not implement that,” Obama said. “Once you have a budget and a government with a set of functions, you make sure that it’s all operating. We don’t get to pick and choose based on which party likes what. So you know, that’s where the budget discussions take place.”

“Now, if there’s some things that the Republicans don’t like, they should argue for eliminating those programs in the budget, come up with an agreement with the Democrats. Maybe the Democrats will agree and those things won’t be funded. But you don’t do a piecemeal approach like that when you’re dealing with a government shutdown, OK?” he said.

In the meantime, The Wall Street Journal reported that several charities, including the Lead the Way Fund, have offered to help the families of the five troops killed this weekend. A senior defense official said DoD leaders are “working to connect the grieving families with private organizations that have reached out to us to help while the shutdown continues.

“We are stepping in,” said Lead the Way Fund founder Jim Regan, whose son was killed in Afghanistan in 2007. “We are going to take care of anything that needs to be done.”

Close [ x ] More from DefenseOne
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from DefenseOne.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

    Download
  • Military Readiness: Ensuring Readiness with Analytic Insight

    To determine military readiness, decision makers in defense organizations must develop an understanding of complex inter-relationships among readiness variables. For example, how will an anticipated change in a readiness input really impact readiness at the unit level and, equally important, how will it impact readiness outside of the unit? Learn how to form a more sophisticated and accurate understanding of readiness and make decisions in a timely and cost-effective manner.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

    Download
  • Information Operations: Retaking the High Ground

    Today's threats are fluent in rapidly evolving areas of the Internet, especially social media. Learn how military organizations can secure an advantage in this developing arena.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.