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Senator Blunt, Colleagues Call On DoD To Restore Vital Assistance To Military Families Who’ve Lost Loved Ones In Combat

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NEWS RELEASE ISSUED OCTOBER 8, 2013 BY THE OFFICE OF U.S. SENATOR ROY BLUNT (MO.)

Senator Blunt, Colleagues Call On DoD To Restore Vital Assistance To Military Families Who’ve Lost Loved Ones In Combat

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.), a member of both the Senate Armed Services Committee and Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, joined a bipartisan group of his colleagues in sending a letter to U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Chuck Hagel today urging him to provide immediate death gratuity payments to military families during the government shutdown.

In addition to Blunt, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Chris Coons (Del.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), John Boozman (Ark.), and Tom Carper (Del.).

As the letter states, the death gratuity program provides for a special tax free payment of $100,000 to eligible survivors of members of the Armed Forces who die while on active duty.

“We strongly urge you to use whatever legal discretion you have to ensure that the nation can fulfill that sacred obligation, and to promptly notify us of changes required under law while the Congress continues to work towards reopening the government,” the Senators wrote.

“Most immediately, we request that you seek an interim solution to allow the families of the five service members killed in Afghanistan this weekend to welcome their loved ones home,” the Senators continued. “Any delay in providing families with this essential benefit is absolutely unacceptable.”

To read the entire letter, please see below or click here.

October 8, 2013

The Honorable Charles Hagel

1400 Defense Pentagon

Washington, DC 20301-1400

Dear Secretary Hagel:

We write to express our concern with recent statements made by Department of Defense officials claiming the Department does not have the legal authority during the government shutdown to provide immediate death gratuity payments to surviving family members who lose a loved one in combat. As you know, the death gratuity program provides for a special tax free payment of $100,000 to eligible survivors of members of the Armed Forces, who die while on active duty.

This vital benefit provides family members with an immediate cash payment to help meet their financial needs during the period immediately following the service member's death. Often, these benefits are used to cover memorial service and burial costs, travel expenses and the unforeseen lapse in a family member’s regular paycheck, which terminates at death. It goes without saying the death gratuity is a small price to pay in order to support family members of those who have paid the ultimate price in service to their country.

We strongly urge you to use whatever legal discretion you have to ensure that the nation can fulfill that sacred obligation, and to promptly notify us of changes required under law while the Congress continues to work towards reopening the government. Most immediately, we request that you seek an interim solution to allow the families of the five service members killed in Afghanistan this weekend to welcome their loved ones home. One such solution could be financial assistance from the Fisher House, which has offered an advance grant to families of the fallen. We pledge to work with you and do anything in our power to ensure this is problem resolved. Any delay in providing families with this essential benefit is absolutely unacceptable.

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