After furor, president reinstates military death benefits


After public fury over the suspension of payments during the government shutdown, President Obama signed legislation on Thursday that will reinstate death benefits to the families of military service members killed since Oct. 1st.

Earlier in the day, the Senate approved a bill that allowed the Pentagon to restore benefits for surviving family members to cover funeral and burial costs and death gratuities. Since the government shutdown, the Pentagon was forced to suspend its payments to the families of 29 soldiers who died on active duty. The Pentagon typically grants a one-time payment of $100,000 within three days of a service member’s death.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Thursday that the legislation was unnecessary because the Fisher House Foundation had agreed on Wednesday to continue the payments to the families during the shutdown. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Pentagon would reimburse the private charity after the shutdown was over.

Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, an Iraq War veteran and former Assistant Secretary of the Department of Veteran Affairs, responded to the Pentagon’s interpretation of the law on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. “Regardless of what the interpretation is, I think it’s shameful that families of our military heroes have had to go through even a single day of this questioning, at a time when they have lost their loved ones in sacrifice to their nation,” said the congresswoman who serves on the House Armed Services Committee. “They shouldn’t even have to worry about this stuff, and I’m glad that they’re gonna get the payments.”