Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Military Death Benefits Restored [Update: Senate Balks]

The House has passed a measure to restore standard death benefits to the military.  The benefits had come to a halt after the Pentagon Comptroller's interpretation of the continuing resolution for the Defense Department, the Pay Our Military Act, despite the clear instructions of the House leadership. 

The bill passed on a unanimous vote, 425-0, and now heads to the Senate.  Baring any further political machinations, the bill will be quickly passed and sent to the President for signature.
Defense Secretary Hagel, Army Secretary McHugh observe return of PFC Cody Patterson
As further insurance, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that the Fisher House Foundation, among some others, has agreed to finance the benefits until such time as the Pentagon can reimburse it. 

Obama has directed the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and White House lawyers to craft a solution to the problem before the end of the day.  Left unexplained is, after this problem has percolated for several days, why the President waited until now to act.

The start of this financial and emotional quagmire began with the announcement by Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale on 5 October that "Unfortunately, we don't have the legal authority to make those payments", which referred to the emergency death benefits of $100,000 accruing to a family for immediate needs, as well as further payments to cover other costs such as travel and funeral expenses. 

The House leadership immediately declared that the Comptroller drew too fine a distinction, not to mention a stupefying one, about a settlement that had already been agreed to.  The death benefits were specifically addressed during the discussion about the POMA, with Speaker Boehner saying that the Pentagon had "broad authority" to include the benefits. 

Representative Buck McKeon (R-California), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said "Judging by the Department of Defense's own summary of those programs, we believed that 'death gratuities' would continue to go to the families of those heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice." [emphasis mine] 

In what I hope is a reply directly to Mr Hale, Secretary Hagel said, "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."

Update: There is no evidence that the Senate is going to take up the bill now that the Fisher House Foundation has agreed to cover the costs.  Will reporters be hounding Harry Reid about that?  (Not bloody likely.)  Would he have the same attitude about this that he does about children with cancer?

Update: As the days have gone by, it is now obvious that Harry Reid has no intention of allowing the Senate to vote on the bill.


  1. Politics ain't beanbag. And Harry ain't a nice guy. You can tell by his perpetual scowl.

    1. As for contacting your Congressman, this shutdown charade continues in this arena too. I am limited to three, of course:

      Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) had a staffer in the office to answer calls. He started to read from the script but my wife cut him off at the figurative knees. She could tell that he was at least giving it a good try and trying to get through the call. Wyden's office was at least making the effort at constituent service.

      Senator Jeff Merkley's (D-Oregon) office went to a automatic "we're shut down" message. Really? There's nobody working in his office? But they're getting paid, aren't they?

      Representative Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) simply ignored my email. Par for the course.

      Communications with Congress have been screened based on you filling in a questionaire about your address and other information, to make sure that you are actually a constituent. Otherwise, you're blocked. I miss the days when I could talk to my Texas delegation - they at least you the satisfaction that they cared.

  2. They might care more (even in Democrat-land) if Cody had been an officer. PFCs seldom have enough grease to influence pols.

    1. I would like to think that rank would not enter into the situation -- it's bad enough as it is. Besides, one of the KIA in the raid was 1LT Moreno.

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