The Washington Post

Obama expects to resolve freeze on death benefits paid to families of fallen U.S. troops

At the White House Wednesday, Press Secretary Jay Carney suggests a solution to the delay in paying death benefits to the families of fallen U.S. military personnel could come later that day. (The Washington Post)

President Obama expects the freeze on death benefits paid to the families American military personnel who have died on active duty to be resolved Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters.

"When the president found out, he was upset, and he asked his lawyers and the OMB to find a solution," Carey told reporters Wednesday, referring to the Office of Management and Budget. "What I haven't seen is a solution from Congress, but he will have one today."

Carney said Obama was troubled when he found out that the bill, passed by Congress, to pay military members during the shutdown did not include the death benefits. He did not say what the resolution would entail or how it would be achieved.

Obama has resisted House attempts to pass spending bills to reopen specific agencies and restart programs, arguing that the government as a whole should be funded. Obama did approve of legislation to pay military members during the shutdown, but has opposed other specific funding measures passed by the Republican-controlled House.

The Pentagon says 26 military personnel have died or been killed since the shutdown began, and their families have not received the “death gratuity” of $100,000 the Defense Department deposits in their bank account within 24 to 36 hours.

Six of those troops were killed in the Afghanistan war, the Pentagon said, while the remaining 20 died in accidents and in other ways around the world.

Families have also not received money to travel to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where those killed in war are brought home in flag-draped coffins. Nor is the government able to pay for burials and funerals, as is customary.

Update 3:21 p.m.: The House unanimously approved its bill ensuring death benefits, but the Defense Department around the same time entered into an agreement with the Fisher House Foundation to pay the gratuities and then get reimbursed after the shutdown.

Craig Whitlock contributed to this report.

Scott Wilson is the chief White House correspondent for the Washington Post. Previously, he was the paper’s deputy Assistant Managing Editor/Foreign News after serving as a correspondent in Latin America and in the Middle East.



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