The Pentagon has confirmed it will not pay death benefits to the families of troops killed in combat during the so-called government shutdown.
With Obama’s recent startling admission that he won’t approve any measures to partially restore suspended government payments for purely political reasons, that puts the blame for this outrage squarely on his shoulders.
“Unfortunately, as a result of the shutdown, we do not have the legal authority to make death gratuity payments at this time,” said Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a Defense Department spokesman. “However, we are keeping a close eye on those survivors who have lost loved ones serving in the Department of Defense.”
The House intends to vote Wednesday to restore funding for the payments. Speaker John Boehner has accused the Obama administration “of needlessly withholding the money.”
Over the weekend, four soldiers — two of them Army Rangers — and one Marine were killed while conducting combat operations in Afghanistan. The bodies of the four soldiers will be returned to Dover Air Force Base on Wednesday.
Due to the impasse, the families of 25-year-old 1st Lt. Jennifer M. Moreno; 24-year-old Pfc. Cody J. Patterson; 24-year-old Special Agent Joseph M. Peters; 25-year-old Sgt. Patrick C. Hawkins; and 19-year-old Lance Cpl. Jeremiah M. Collins, Jr. will not receive the $100,000 payment that they would have otherwise received within three days of the death.
Adding further insult, the families will have to pay for their own travel to Dover. That’s a bill the Pentagon also says it can’t pay because of the partial shutdown.
Privately, Defense Department officials say they wish they could pay the families and they admit it’s a disgrace that deserves national attention.
Boehner claimed a bill passed by Congress and signed by the president last week to pay America’s troops should have given the Pentagon the latitude “to pay all kinds of bills, including this.”