Topics: House of Representatives

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says private group will cover military death benefits till shutdown passes

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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that Fisher House Foundation will pay military death benefits after administration lawyers concluded that a Pentagon funding measure did not cover the gratuity, despite congressional intent.

"In the last 24 hours, however, the Department of Defense was approached by the Fisher House Foundation, which had generously offered to make payments to these families from its own funds," Hagel said.

"The Fisher House Foundation will provide the families of the fallen with the benefits they so richly deserve. After the shutdown ends, DOD will reimburse the Fisher House for the costs it has incurred."

Hagel said that the funding measure, authored by House Republicans and passed by the Senate on the eve of the government shut down, didn't provide for the $100,000 death gratuity provided to the families of fallen service members.

House Republicans disagreed. “The Department of Defense's refusal to pay the death gratuity or burial benefit is inexcusable,” said Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., chairman of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee. "It was Congress' intent when we passed the Pay Our Military Act that these benefits be provided without question to our military families.”

The House unanimously passed another bill today funding the death benefits.

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