Military ‘death gratuities’ on hold until end of shutdown

October 9, 2013

A U.S. Marine died on duty in Helmand province, Afghanistan on Monday, one of 21 soldiers who have died since the shutdown started, according to the Defense Department.

But until the lapse in federal funding ends, the families of deceased military personnel cannot expect to receive the “death gratuity” of $100,000 the Defense Department deposits in their bank account within 24 to 36 hours, defense officials said.

(Paula Bronstein/Getty)
(Paula Bronstein/Getty)

Grieving families also cannot expect the military to cover the usual costs of travel to meet their loved ones returning home in American flag-draped coffins through Dover Air Force Base, or pay for funerals and burials, according to the Defense Department.

If the shutdown continues into November, monthly survivor benefits are in jeopardy because the Department of Veterans Affairs has warned it will not have money to pay them.

“Unfortunately, as a result of the shutdown, we do not have the legal authority to make death gratuity payments at this time,” said Nathan Christensen, a Defense Department spokesman. “However, we are keeping a close eye on those survivors who have lost loved ones.”

The benefits will be paid once the government reopens, officials said. The House plans to vote Wednesday on a bill that would ensure the payments during the shutdown — part of a GOP strategy to re-start funding for certain areas of government.

The Post’s Aaron Blake reports that Senate chaplain Barry Black, who has offered a series of stinging rebukes to Congress’s intransigence this week, focused on the issue this morning.

Lisa Rein covers the federal workforce and issues that concern the management of government.
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