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Budget Spats Hurt Families Of The Fallen The Most
Whenever Congress and the White House play a game of chicken that results in a government shutdown, the losers are the families of U.S. troops killed in combat and training exercises.
Two U.S. soldiers were killed on Saturday when their AH-64 Apache helicopter crashed in California. Normally, each of their families would receive $100,000 death gratuities, but the fatal accident occurred during the government shut down.
“Under the government shutdown, DOD has no authority to pay death benefits to the families of these pilots or anyone else,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White. “Congress needs to pass budget and support our troops and their families.”
Congress appeared close to passing a temporary spending measure on Monday that would reopen the government for a little while, but there is no guarantee that families of fallen and deceased troops won’t have to go through the same ordeal again if the government shuts down later this year.
“I think it’s time that we guaranteed that death benefits will be paid to these families, regardless of the circumstance,” said Ken Fisher, CEO of Fisher House, a nonprofit for veterans and families in need. “I think that maybe it’s time to enact legislation that guarantees that death benefits be paid, even in the event of a government shutdown.
“No family going through what these families are going through should ever have to wonder whether or not that’s going to happen.”
As of early Monday afternoon, Fisher House had offered to cover death gratuities until the government reopens and is waiting to hear back from the Defense Department, Fisher told Task & Purpose.
During the 2013 shutdown, Fisher House paid a total of 30 families $25,000 each, Fisher said.
Due to privacy issues, the Defense Department did not allow Fisher House to pay the full $100,000 death gratuities to the affected families, said Fisher; he did not know if those issues have been rectified since.
Lawmakers have yet to come together to ensure death benefits be paid to families in the event of another shutdown.
Rep. Betty McCollum has introduced legislation that would prevent the interruption in death gratuities from recurring.
“My bill ensures that our military will get paid and that death benefits will be provided during this and any potential future government shutdown this fiscal year,” McCollum, a Minnesota Democrat, told Task & Purpose on Monday. “I hope that House Republicans will bring up this bill quickly and provide our service members and their families with certainty that they will be paid.”
But House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry accused Democrats of holding defense spending “hostage” to other issues, such as immigration.
“The military is not a political football,” Thornberry, a Texas Republican, said on Monday. “All around the world they risk their lives for us unconditionally. Our support for them should be unconditional, as well.”
Other groups are also ready to step in during government shutdowns. For bereaved families in need of immediate help, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors offers 24/7 assistance, said Jen Harlow, TAPS director of casework support services.
“We are here to provide resources for the family, education on what benefits may be affected, support if someone is needing emergency assistance, and – because of the government shutdown – if their benefits aren’t readily available, then we’re able to fill that gap and connect resources for them,” Harlow told Task & Purpose on Monday.
For years, the nonprofit group has helped families of troops who have died in combat, training exercises and suicide. During the shutdown, TAPS will continue to provide families with travel and funeral assistance so they can have a proper service for their loved ones, Harlow said.
TAPS’ 24/7 helpline 1-800-959-8277 is available both to newly bereaved families who need assistance and those who lost a loved one before the shutdown and still need assistance, she said.
“We would recommend any families who have concerns or are very anxious about the government shutdown and how it will affect their benefits or commissary privileges to contact TAPS any time,” Harlow said. “We can walk them through their specific, unique benefits situation to determine how they are affected and the short-term, long-term plan.”
Customs and Border Patrol denied a Marine vet entry into the US for his a scheduled citizenship interview
A deported Marine Corps veteran who has been unable to come back to the U.S. for more than a decade was denied entry to the country Monday morning when he asked to be let in for a scheduled citizenship interview.
Roman Sabal, 58, originally from Belize, came to the San Ysidro Port of Entry around 7:30 on Monday morning with an attorney to ask for "parole" to attend his naturalization interview scheduled for a little before noon in downtown San Diego. Border officials have the authority to temporarily allow people into the country on parole for "humanitarian or significant public benefit" reasons.
Navy Secretary Richard Spencer took the reins at the Pentagon on Monday, becoming the third acting defense secretary since January.
Spencer is expected to temporarily lead the Pentagon while the Senate considers Army Secretary Mark Esper's nomination to succeed James Mattis as defense secretary. The Senate officially received Esper's nomination on Monday.
U.S. Special Operations Command may be on the verge of making the dream of flying infantry soldiers a reality, but the French may very well beat them to it.
On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron shared an unusual video showing a man on a flying platform — widely characterized as a "hoverboard" — maneuvering through the skies above the Bastille Day celebrations in Paris armed with what appears to be a dummy firearm.
The video was accompanied with a simple message of "Fier de notre armée, moderne et innovante," which translates to "proud of our army, modern and innovative," suggesting that the French Armed Forces may be eyeing the unusual vehicle for potential military applications.
A lawmaker wants to know if the Pentagon ever exposed the American public to ticks infected with bioweapons
If you've ever wondered if the Pentagon has ever exposed the American public to ticks infected with biological weapons, you're not alone.
Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) authored an amendment to the House version of the Fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act would require the Defense Department Inspector General's Office to find out if the U.S. military experimented with using ticks and other insects as biological weapons between 1950 and 1975.
If such experiments took place, the amendment would require the inspector general's office to tell lawmakers if any of the ticks or other bugs "were released outside of any laboratory by accident or experiment design."
The Taliban drove his family out of Afghanistan when he was a child. Now he wants to go back as a Marine
There's no one path to military service. For some, it's a lifelong goal, for others, it's a choice made in an instant.
For 27-year-old Marine Pvt. Atiqullah Assadi, who graduated from Marine Corps bootcamp on July 12, the decision to enlist was the culmination of a journey that began when he and his family were forced to flee their home in Afghanistan.