Shutdown Shuts Off Military Death Benefit Payments

Yes, there are tons of stories about hardships created by the Federal Government shutdown, but this one strikes me as particularly egregious:

The families of more than a dozen service members who died during the ongoing government shutdown have not yet received a $100,000 in promised pay. The families, including those of five American service members killed in Afghanistan last weekend, did not receive the “death gratuity” given to families of the fallen even after Congress passed a law last week to pay military members during the shutdown.

The payment, which is wired to families of active duty and some reserve troops no later than three days after the service member’s death, covers the costs of immediate expenses, like funeral services and flights to meet the coffins, as well as immediate financial assistance until life insurance policies take effect.

Republican aides told NBC that they were drafting a resolution to restore the gratuity that could be introduced as early as Wednesday.

“We are going to work through this week [on] a mini CR that would help with this funding,” said Congressman Sean Duffy, R-Wisc., said on Andrea Mitchell Reports Tuesday.

Congressman Joe Wilson, chair of the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the Armed Service Committee, asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in a letter why death benefits were not paid as part of the Pay Our Military Act and requested an itemized explanation of the suspended payments. And lawmakers took to the floor Tuesday to denounce an effect of the shutdown that has also angered the public. Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., called the benefits delay “a great injustice.”

“Despite the government shutdown, our service members are still expected to go to war knowing full well that they may pay the ultimate sacrifice for this great nation. And we should be expected to keep our promises to their family members,” Ellmers said.

Seventeen American service members have died since the shutdown went into effect, and all of their families are being impacted by this. In some cases, according to media reports, it’s made it financially impossible for families to travel to Dover Air Force Base to receive the remains of their loved one and make funeral arrangements. Yes, there are plenty of emotional stories tied to the shutdown that one could find, but it strikes me that this is one that ought to be alleviated post haste rather than holding these families hostage to partisan nonsense. Speaker Boehner said this afternoon that specific legislation to address this issue would be introduced in the House tomorrow. In a just world, it ought to be immediately passed, sent to the Senate, passed there, and signed into law by the President before Sunset on Wednesday.

Yes, one can make the “the House should pass a clean CR argument” here, but this strikes me as a situation where politics ought to be put aside.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, Quick Takes
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Heisenberg says:

    At the rate Republicans are putting mini-CRs into circulation, pretty soon they’ll have “mini-CR’d” an entire budget.

    Funny how all these stories keep cropping up, while the conservative base keeps talking about how great it is that “non-essential” government is shutdown….

  2. michael reynolds says:

    No. No deals, no compromise, no surrender to blackmail. Mr. Obama is not running for re-election.

  3. Todd says:

    this strikes me as a situation where politics ought to be put aside.

    And yet, we have a story about how Republican congressmen are making it a “political” issue. Imagine that.

  4. al-Ameda says:

    Grandstanding bozos:
    “Congressman Joe Wilson, chair of the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the Armed Service Committee, asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in a letter why death benefits were not paid as part of the Pay Our Military Act and requested an itemized explanation of the suspended payments. And lawmakers took to the floor Tuesday to denounce an effect of the shutdown that has also angered the public. Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., called the benefits delay “a great injustice.””

    Yay, we may soon have a “cafeteria plan” shutdown.
    Republicans decide which stuff is not shutdown-able, while the rest of move our money out of bonds.

  5. Scott says:

    @Heisenberg: Here the problem with all these CR. Pretty soon a lot will be funded except those the Republicans don’t approve of like EPA, FDA and other regulatory agencies. The danger is, as has been stated before, they are trying to accomplish what they want without having to get authorization and appropriation laws passed the normal way.

  6. mantis says:

    Yes, let’s run our government this way from now on. Just shut down everything and then fund tiny pieces one by one whenever someone complains loud enough. It will be death by a thousand mini-CRs.

    The Republicans will ruin us all, and quickly.

  7. The bill to authorize these payments will pass the House unanimously.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    And then it will die.

  9. mantis says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The bill to authorize these payments will pass the House unanimously

    Do you have a point, or is this just another edition of Doug Loves Obvious Predictions?

  10. rudderpedals says:

    We had a rabbit that left little pellets all over the place, like these time-wasting nanoCRs.

  11. @michael reynolds: @mantis:

    It will also pass the Senate and be signed into law by the President.

    Also, I personally don’t think that cold, heartless political partisanship is appropriate in this particular case. But, hey, that’s just me.

  12. mantis says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    So you’re just going to keep whacking away at straw then?

  13. @mantis:

    If there’s something wrong, you fix it. This is something wrong that can, and likely will, be easily fixed.

  14. al-Ameda says:

    At the rate we’re going, this really begs the question:
    Why doesn’t Obama just order the shutdown ended?

    He could issue an Executive Order ending the shutdown, and include language to the effect that all government operations are critical to the support of our military operations, personnel and veterans. Wouldn’t that do it?

  15. Tlaloc says:

    The bill to authorize these payments will pass the House unanimously.

    But should it? I’d say no. In the first place I don’t see where these 17 grieving families out weigh cancer patients or any of thousands of other groups who are also suffering and shouldn’t be. The only way to fix the whole problem is to fix the whole problem. Fixing little bits unfortunately makes fixing the whole less likely, and that’s the really egregious problem.

  16. michael reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    So fix this but not cancer treatments or head start? Why? It’s about time right wingers figured out that the government is necessary. I’d oppose this or any other weak-kneed pandering. And it won’t pass the Senate if Reid doesn’t move it.

  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    but this strikes me as a situation where politics ought to be put aside.

    I agree! Why won’t the Repugs stop this nonsense??? (note the spelling, first time I used it) Doug????

    Get the f off your high horse. Get down here where it’s muddy and make things happen. Your “I’m not a republican, I’m not a dem, I’m a Libertarian.” Is showing to be as gutless as Brave Brave Sir Robin. Doug, you can not honestly expect one side to allow

    the other side to fund only the parts they like??? As they come up????

    Never mind. Yes you can. You are a Libertarian. The most gutless weasels on the planet. They never have to stand behind any principle ever because …. well….. “I’m a Libertarian! I have principals that nobody else will stand behind!! So I’m alone and nothing I believe in will ever be enacted! So I am better than all you all!”

    You know what? Pretending to be above politics is the same as never having to fight for any thing, it is the same as losing every time, only worse. At least the losers fought for what they believed in. Apparently, what you believe in isn’t worth fighting for.

  18. mantis says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    If there’s something wrong, you fix it. This is something wrong that can, and likely will, be easily fixed.

    Oh, we agree then. The whole shutdown could be easily fixed. They should. Now.

  19. mantis says:

    Here is the situation. Republicans set a fire in the corner of the living room. They hold a fire extinguisher. Rather than just put out the fire, they start issuing demands for which valuables to save while the fire grows bigger and spreads. What do you do? Start running around and grabbing stuff on their orders or just demand they put the damned fire out? Oh, and by the way, if you submit to their demands, they won’t put out the fire until the house is just a pile of embers. And when you rebuild, they will just set it on fire again.

  20. anjin-san says:

    @ Doug

    cold, heartless political partisanship

    You don’t seem to get too worked up about cold, heartless political partisanship when it is poor people that are getting hurt.

  21. Davebo says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Also, I personally don’t think that cold, heartless political partisanship is appropriate in this particular case.

    Damn. Doug’s not even bothering to phone it in anymore.

    If you ever doubted the fact that a Libertarian is a Republican that’s afraid to admit it publicly it’s blatantly obvious now.

  22. David M says:

    Do [shut down the government]…or do not. There is no try.

  23. wr says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “If there’s something wrong, you fix it. This is something wrong that can, and likely will, be easily fixed.”

    Sure. Of course poor people getting thrown off food stamps, kids tossed out of Head Start, all the other people suffering don’t matter.

    I agree that this is a terrible situation. Somehow I’m able to see it that way even though I don’t know anyone who is directly affected, and to understand that other people are in equally terrible situations.

    I guess that’s why I’m not a Republican.

  24. john personna says:

    I believe that I have been calling shutdown a national emergency for some days now.

    I also would like to see death benefits, and things like suicide help lines, be called “essential.”

    But what the heck, the real problem here is that shutdown is being treated as some kind of normal.

    Shame on that!

  25. bk says:

    Too damn bad. They wanted a shutdown, they campaigned on a shutdown, and they voted for a shutdown. They should now own it, instead of acting like a bunch of whiny ass titty babies.

  26. Bob @ Youngstown says:

    @mantis:

    Yes, let’s run our government this way from now on. Just shut down everything and then fund tiny pieces one by one whenever someone complains loud enough. It will be death by a thousand mini-CRs

    Exactly my thoughts (not!)

    It also occurs to me that there is a hint of arrogance by some of these critters, a notion that they are imtimately aware of all the non-obvious functions of government.

    Did the Republicans intend to prevent the prompt payment of death benefits? I’m sure they did not, but this is a real good example of unintended consequences.

  27. beth says:

    Maybe we could just start a new reality show – call it American Misery. Every day, three contestants vie to have funding reinstated for the part of the shutdown that affects them. Say hello to today’s contestants: a grieving military widow, a starving senior, and over here, a child with cancer. Whoever tugs at your heartstrings the hardest and gets you to call in a vote for them not only wins funding but gets to pick a national monument they’d like to see open! Fun for the whole family – and think of the ratings!

  28. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Also, I personally don’t think that cold, heartless political partisanship is appropriate in this particular case. But, hey, that’s just me.

    In which cases do you think cold, heartless political partisanship is appropriate?Cutting off Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)? Cutting off WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children)? What about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)? I suppose just you is fine with us taking food out of the mouths of children, the sick, the poor and the old, since you haven’t put up any posts demanding that those programs be immediately restored, right?

    Please, don’t make us laugh, that you actually care for other people. You got yours, and screw everyone else.

  29. john personna says:

    @beth:

    Genius.

  30. Grewgills says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    The problem is there are dozens of stories and if this keeps going there will be more and more. This will be passed. Then there will be another thing that needs fixing and another, until all we do is cover ourselves in bandaids. How many of these stories, until you would say no more? Another one? three? ten?

  31. Buffalo Rude says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    In which cases do you think cold, heartless political partisanship is appropriate?Cutting off Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)? Cutting off WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children)? What about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)? I suppose just you is fine with us taking food out of the mouths of children, the sick, the poor and the old, since you haven’t put up any posts demanding that those programs be immediately restored, right?

    This.

    It’s interesting how right wing empathy is somewhat selective. No?

  32. David M says:

    Maybe we could just start a new reality show – call it American Misery….

    Beth wins the thread.

  33. Rafer Janders says:

    @Buffalo Rude:

    It’s interesting how right wing empathy is somewhat selective. No?

    For Doug, “unnecessary spending” is spending on causes and people he doesn’t care about. But find one small case that tugs at his heartstrings, and suddenly we have to make exceptions, consider it a special circumstance, move heave and earth to help those poor people.

    He doesn’t think these families should be denied a gift of taxpayer money due to “cold political partisanship ” — but what he doesn’t understand is that making an exception for them, and NOT FOR EVERYONE ELSE, is itself cold political partisanship.

  34. Rafer Janders says:

    Yes, there are plenty of emotional stories tied to the shutdown that one could find, but it strikes me that this is one that ought to be alleviated post haste rather than holding these families hostage to partisan nonsense.

    Why this one and not others? Serious question, why this one specific case to alleviate and not all the others?

  35. Kolohe says:

    It baffles me that the lawyers could interpret the same law such that it pays for the NFL on AFN, but not the death benefit.

  36. KM says:

    @Kolohe:It baffles me that the lawyers could interpret the same law such that it pays for the NFL on AFN, but not the death benefit.

    Oh they didn’t interpret. That implies some thought went into this.

    No, they simply assumed these things were taken care of. Like that person who thinks there’s an Underwear Fairy who picks them up off the floor, cleans them and returns them to your drawer magically. People like this who cry government is unnecessary have no idea how much minutiae and paperwork it takes to make the world go round. Whatever do you mean, the guy that did all that filing was doing something useful??? You mean I have to pay this bill, it doesn’t just go away if I ignore it???

    Also, football. We’ve seen the lengths people will go to to protect that sacred cow and the morals they’re willing to sacrifice.

    As much as I sympathize with the family of the fallen, their pain is not unique. Their suffering is not special. They are one of many. By pushing them forward, you are pushing others back – telling them, no you don’t matter think about the VETERANS!!!! No one should be getting screwed over because the crybabies in their government can’t get their shit together. No. One.

    Empathy for ALL, not just the favored. Screw politics.

  37. Todd says:

    @KM:

    Empathy for ALL, not just the favored. Screw politics.

    Absolutely. On the one hand, while I’m glad to be getting paid come the 15th (still active duty for a few more months, while on terminal leave), at the same time I feel kind of guilty about it. There are a whole lot of people out there who ARE going to miss paychecks, and will actually have a much harder time finding a way to bridge that gap than I would have.

    For me personally (as a father of young girls), it’s the Head Start cuts that make me the most sad. I can’t imagine having to explain to my 3 or 5 year olds that they can’t go to school anymore because there’s no money for it. I guarantee you, at least one of them would run right upstairs to look for their piggy bank.