President Obama signs the Pay Our Military Act on Oct. 1.

President Obama signs the Pay Our Military Act on Oct. 1. White House Photo

Obama Expects Troop Death Benefits Fix ‘Today’

The public outrage over the shutdown halting ‘death gratuity’ payments to the families of fallen soldiers has reached the White House -- President Obama says he expects a fix today. By Stephanie Gaskell

The public outrage over death benefits paid to the families of fallen troops being halted during the government shutdown finally reached the White House. “President Obama expects this to be fixed today,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said during a press briefing on Wednesday.

The families of servicemembers killed while on active duty receive a $100,000 payment within 36 hours of the death, to pay for burial and travel expenses. The money comes from the Defense Department, which warned Congress about the lapse in payments before the shutdown happened on Oct. 1. But it garnered little attention until five U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan over the weekend.  

“Everyone knew about it,” Carney said, who bristled at questions from a reporter about why it took so long to fix the problem. “The Republicans shut the government down down. None of this would be an issue if the government were open,” he said. “He’s doing it today, because it was not addressed by Congress in the Pay Our Military Act,” which Obama signed hours before the government closed down. “I’m not assigning blame for that, but it wasn’t [addressed].”

Several veterans organizations have offered to help the families of the five servicemebers who were killed in Afghanistan this weekend. And in a rare move, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to greet the families and the flag-draped coffins of their loved ones. He was joined by Army Secretary John McHugh.