Senate backs bill to restore death benefits

Posted by James Rosen on October 10, 2013 

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A U.S. Army honor guard carries the remains oat a burial service at Arlington National Cemetery

OLIVIER DOULIERY — MCT

The Senate on Thursday passed legislation to restore quick $100,000 payments to relatives of current or former military members, following House approval of the measure a day earlier.

With Obama having urged Congress to act Wednesday,  he was expected to sign into law the bill that passed both chambers unanimously in the wake of widespread public anger over the suspension of the survivors' death benefits because of the partial government shutdown.

At least 17 solders and veterans had died since the shutdown began Oct. 1, among them five troops slain in Afghanistan during combat operations.

White House press secretary Jay Carney blamed Republicans for the lapse in payments.

"These benefits were held up because Republicans wanted to defund Obamacare," Carney told reporters. "These benefits were held up because they wanted to get what they could not get through the legislative process, what they could not get from the Supreme Court of the United States, what they could not get in a national election for president."   

The Senate on Thursday passed legislation to restore quick $100,000 payments to relatives of current or former military members, following House approval of the measure a day earlier.

Just before the Senate vote, Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, circulated a legal memo he'd asked the Congressional Research Service to complete.

The memo concludes that a law passed last week hours before the shutdown began, which authorized payments to men and women in uniform, could be construed to also allow the Pentagon to continue its practice of wiring $100,000 into families' bank accounts within three days of the death of a current or former military member.

The more recent bill sent to Obama on Thursday removes any legal ambiguity.

In the interim, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday had accepted an offer by the Fisher House Foundation to cover the payments to fallen warriors' relatives, with the Pentagon agreeing to reimburse the nonprofit organization after the shutdown.

The Fisher House Foundation, based in Rockville, Md., near Washington, provides free temporary lodging to military families so they can be near a hospitalized soldier or veteran.

 

 

 

   

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