Whether it’s the picture of the barricades around the WWII Memorial, or the Department of Defense saying they can’t pay the “death gratuity” for the fallen we’ve had in Afghanistan this week, this administration turns a blind eye to the needs of veterans. They talk a good line, but when it matters, they are MIA.
My dad was a POW in WWII and it was an experience that shaped his life and the lives of his wife and children. The service of a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine is a cost to themselves and everyone in their families and we owe them.
I don’t understand why President Obama didn’t go to the WWII Memorial and remove the barriers himself. It would have been the right thing to do and great optics. Republicans need to make an issue of this, heck, everyone of us should. To tell men in the late 80s and 90s the memorial built too late to honor their service and sacrifice is closed when the Andrews Air Force Base golf course is open for the president, is a travesty that anyone should see.
Since the shutdown, multiple American military servicemen (2 based in Georgia) have died in Afghanistan and the Department of Defense callously says they can’t pay the death benefit or pay to bring the families to Dover Air Force Base to attend the arrival ceremony, that is unacceptable.
If there are any perks for the Congress or the president, they should be ended immediately and the funds shifts to take care of these basic responsibilities of our government. It’s the least they can do.
Today, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) issued this statement on the issue:
Media outlets began reporting earlier this week that the Department of Defense (DOD) was not paying what’s known as a death gratuity, or ‘death benefit’ in the news, to the families of troops killed in action on the battlefield. This payment comes within three days of a soldier’s death and is used to pay many of the immediate costs families incur, including travel to Dover where the caskets arrive and funeral costs. However, the House passed H.R. 3210 the Pay Our Military Act, which was intended to cover all payments and benefits for active military – including the death gratuity. The Senate later passed the bill and the president signed it.
“This is outrageous,” stated Westmoreland. “The Pay Our Military Act was passed to make certain that our brave troops who already sacrifice so much for our country should not have to sacrifice in the case of a government shutdown. That bill gives plenty of latitude to the Pentagon to pay benefits to active military troops, including this one. Their decision not to do so is shameful. What is even more shameful is that as the Commander in Chief, President Obama is not honoring that role. As the head of our nation’s military, I find it incomprehensible that he has not ordered this benefit to be paid out no matter what. Congress has already approved these funds, but the buck stops with the president, literally. How can the leader of our military turn his back on those he swore to lead?”
Last week, Congress found out from third parties – mainly media outlets – that DOD was not implementing the Pay Our Military Act in the manner in which Congress intended. In an effort to quickly fix this, on Friday, October 4th, House Armed Services Subcommittee Chairman Joe Wilson (SC-02) sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel asking him to implement the Pay Our Military Act as Congress intended, specifically pointing out that the death gratuity was included in the bill and should be paid. Congress has yet to receive a response to that request. According to the Defense Department, H.R. 3210 provides payment and benefits for active troops and since this benefit goes to families, it is not covered. However, the DOD’s own list of paid benefits includes this death gratuity.
“The Pay Our Military Act clearly covers the benefits military families receive in the case of a death,” stated Westmoreland. “And if the Defense Department did not feel that was the case, they should have responded to the many requests by Congress to correct the problem before now. After shutting out World War II veterans from their own memorial, they are now turning their backs on the families of our brave troops at a time when they need comfort and assistance. This administration continues to play politics with our veterans and our troops and I’m absolutely disgusted.”
The DOD has made it clear they will not implement the Pay Our Military Act as Congress intended, so the House of Representatives has passed another bill today, H.J.Res. 91 the Honoring the Families of Fallen Soldiers Act, that would once again ensure that military families receive any benefits they are due in the case that their loved one dies. Congressman Westmoreland strongly encourages the Senate to quickly pass this bill and the White House to sign it into law.