As a temporary fix, the non-profit organization, The Fisher House, has stepped up and agreed to temporarily pay death benefits to military families of service members killed in action since the government shutdown.
And the Pentagon’s legal department is looking for an immediate way to provide emergency help and death benefits to military families who have had a loved one killed, according to the NPR Two-Way.
After much criticism from Republican lawmakers over the halting of emergency benefits to families of service members killed, press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday that the president has directed lawyers at the Defense Department and White House budget office to find an immediate legal fix for paying death benefits.
“When [the president] found out that this was not addressed he directed that a solution be found and we expect one today,” Carney said.
NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman says 26 service members have died since the shutdown began, six of them in Afghanistan, but unless the issue is resolved, their families will not receive the $100,000 death benefit owed them.
Four of the service members died in a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Military Times is reporting that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has negotiated a deal so families who have been denied a $100,000 death gratuity the past week receive compensation.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the department has forged an agreement with the Fisher House, a private charity organization, to provide payments directly to troops families during the shutdown. When the government resumes routine operations, the Defense Department will reimburse the Fisher House.
“I am offended, outraged, and embarrassed that the government shutdown had prevented the Department of Defense from fulfilling this most sacred responsibility in a timely manner,” Hagel said in a statement announcing the agreement with Fisher House.
“I will continue to work every day to address the very real impact that the government shutdown is having on our people, and I once again call on Congress to fulfill its basic responsibilities and restore funding for the federal government,” Hagel said.
Many are voicing their frustration with the stalemate including one of the soldiers killed this past week. You can read his Facebook comments in the Military Times report made just days before he was killed in Afghanistan:
Troops killed in action whose families will be affected by the suspended death gratuity include Marine Lance Cpl. Jeremiah M. Collins Jr., 19, of Milwaukee, Wis.
Just days before his death, Collins vented his frustration with the government shutdown on his Facebook page.
“I am waiting for the moment they breach my contract. Just waiting, I am out here in Afghan so I can’t just leave, but I can sit the f— down and not give two s—-,” Collins wrote on Oct. 3. “Get it together Obama and not to mention Congress. Jesus! Make up your minds, I will protect the being of my country with my life, but do not go [messing] with the men and women that protect your sorry asses.”
Collins died Oct. 5, and his death remains under investigation.