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New bill would prevent disruptions in death benefits

Oct. 30, 2013 - 09:55AM   |  
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With another partial government shutdown possible in mid-January, two lawmakers are moving to provide permanent funding for military death benefits.

Reps. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and Tom Rooney, R-Fla., are cosponsors of a bill aimed at preventing, ever again, a repeat of October’s embarrassing situation in which the Defense Department was barred from paying death gratuity and burial benefits during the government shutdown until Congress provided an exemption.

Benefits eventually were paid after DoD first made arrangements with a charity to provide the money, and Congress later stepped in to provide government funds.

The government will run out of money again on Jan. 15. While the House and Senate budget committees launched negotiations on Wednesday to try to resolve spending and debt reduction differences in order to pass federal spending bills, another partial shutdown remains a possibility.

Connolly and Rooney want to make sure death benefits are not suspended in another shutdown with their bill, HR 3352, which would provide permanent appropriations for military death benefits paid to survivors immediately after an active-duty death.

In a statement, Connolly said he was “outraged” that some families were initially denied benefits in October during the shutdown.

“We have a sacred trust with every man or woman who dons the uniform in defense of our nation, and we have a duty to provide funds quickly to help the families of those who make the ultimate sacrifice for our country,” Connolly said.

“We cannot allow political posturing in Congress or other efforts that force a government shutdown to prevent the flow of funds and other needed resources to families who have just lost a service member. We must honor our commitment, no matter what.”

Rooney said military families shouldn’t be hurt government inaction. “Nothing should stand in the way of keeping our sacred obligations to our military families, particularly in times of immense grief and sadness,” he said.

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