Five American families are being denied the usual “death gratuity” in order to pay funeral expenses for soldiers who died during the budget impasse.
During the 1995 to 1996 government shutdown, America wasn’t in the middle of fighting a war. While soldiers in Afghanistan are still receiving a paycheck, the shutdown is a terrible time for a soldier to die. The Pentagon says it is not allowed to disperse the $100,000 tax-free payments to the families of five soldiers killed last weekend until the shutdown is over.
“It is upsetting because my husband died for his country, and now his family is left to worry,” Ashley Peters, the widow of Jeremy Peters, one of four soldiers killed by an IED on Sunday, told MSNBC.
“My husband always said if something happened to him we would be taken care of,” she said. Peters leaves behind by a 20-month-old son.
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Pfc. Cody Patterson, 24, of Philomath, Ore., also died with Peters.
“If Congress were trapped in a car that sunk down in a river, I would swim to the window, and I would look them all in the eye and say, ‘Suck water,’” said Patterson’s father, Randall Patterson.
According to MSNBC, he then used an expletive to describe members of Congress who “are still getting paid.”
Spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Joe Davis called the delay of death gratuity “just disgusting.”
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“Veterans, military personnel and now their families are not to be used as leverage in this political game of blame,” Davis said. He added that Congress should “put the country ahead of their politics.”
“There are no words to describe this situation — that America could fail the families of our fallen heroes,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-N.Y.). “But the first word that comes to mind is appalling.”
Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.) introduced a bill to restore the death gratuity. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) promised that the House would pass it, but it has not been put to a vote.
A private foundation stepped forward to pay the families until the government reopens, ABC News reported.
“After losing a loved one in service to our nation, these families should not have to endure more pain as the result of political squabbling,” said Ken Fisher, the chairman and CEO of the Fisher House Foundation.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) thanked the Fisher House for stepping in “to make sure there is no funding gap during a time of unimaginable grief. ”