Pentagon says foundation to pay death benefits

Wednesday - 10/9/2013, 4:20pm EDT

JULIE PACE
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration says it has worked out a solution to allow the families of fallen military members to receive death benefits during the government shutdown.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the Fisher House Foundation has agreed to make the payments from its own funds. At the end of the shutdown, the Defense Department will reimburse the foundation for the costs it has incurred.

"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. "In the days before the shutdown, we warned Congress and the American people that DoD would not have the legal authority to make these payments during a lapse in appropriations. . Even under the Pay Our Military Act, we found that we lacked the necessary authority to make payments to the families directly."

The White House said earlier Wednesday that President Barack Obama was "disturbed" to learn that families of fallen soldiers were not receiving death benefits. The Defense Department typically pays families about $100,000 within three days of a soldier's death, but officials say the shutdown was preventing those benefits from being paid.

Hagel added DoD greatest priority was providing for its military personnel and their families.

"Our men and women in uniform must know that the department will always fulfill its responsibilities to them and to their families," he said. "Congress has responsibilities as well, and it has abdicated them. Along with the rest of the Department's leaders, 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."

The Fisher House Foundation is a charity organization that works with veterans and military families.


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