Fisher House Rescues Defense Department on Death Benefits During Shutdown

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel listens to a speaker before testifying on Syria to the House Armed Services Committee on September 10, 2013.
National Journal
Stephanie Gaskell, Defense One
See more stories about...
Stephanie Gaskell, Defense One
Oct. 9, 2013, 12:37 p.m.

The Fish­er House Found­a­tion, an or­gan­iz­a­tion long- known for caring for wounded troops and their fam­il­ies, will pay death gra­tu­ity be­ne­fits for the fam­il­ies of ser­vice­mem­bers killed dur­ing the gov­ern­ment shut­down ““ and the Pentagon will back them pay once it’s over.

De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel an­nounced the deal on Wed­nes­day after massive pub­lic out­rage that be­ne­fits ““ in­clud­ing a $100,000 pay­ment to the fam­ily with­in 36 hours of the death no­tice ““ would not be paid while the gov­ern­ment is shut down.

“Today I am pleased to an­nounce that the De­part­ment of De­fense is en­ter­ing in­to an agree­ment with the Fish­er House Found­a­tion that will al­low the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to provide the fam­ily mem­bers of fallen ser­vice mem­bers with the full set of be­ne­fits they have been prom­ised, in­clud­ing a $100,000 death gra­tu­ity pay­ment,” Hagel said in a state­ment re­leased shortly after he and Army Sec­ret­ary John McHugh traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware for the dig­ni­fied trans­fer ce­re­mony for four sol­diers who were killed by an IED in Afgh­anistan on Sunday. “After the shut­down ends, DoD will re­im­burse the Fish­er House for the costs it has in­curred.”

“I am of­fen­ded, out­raged and em­bar­rassed that the gov­ern­ment shut­down had pre­ven­ted the De­part­ment of De­fense from ful­filling this most sac­red re­spons­ib­il­ity in a timely man­ner,” he said.

So is Ken Fish­er, a New York City real es­tate de­veloper who runs the Fish­er House Found­a­tion.

Fish­er said he saw news re­ports that the be­ne­fits would not get paid dur­ing the shut­down and “I star­ted just get­ting an­gri­er and an­gri­er.” The lapse in be­ne­fits be­came more ur­gent with five U.S. troops were killed in Afgh­anistan over the week­end

“We’re still work­ing on how to im­ple­ment this,” Fish­er told De­fense One. He said he’s in touch with Pentagon of­fi­cials to fig­ure out how to ad­min­is­ter the checks. The found­a­tion could give money dir­ectly to the fam­il­ies, but there’s an is­sue of pri­vacy, or give the money to the De­fense De­part­ment, but there’s un­cer­tainty over wheth­er DoD can pro­cess the checks dur­ing the shut­down. “At the end of the day if I have to drive it down my­self and give it to them, I will,” Fish­er said. “This seg­ment of so­ci­ety, when they raise their hand, they give an oath and the oath is to de­fend this na­tion, with my life if ne­ces­sary. But this coun­try also takes an oath, that if you’re wounded, we’ll take care of you, if you don’t make it home, we’ll take care of your fam­ily.”

On Tues­day night, Fish­er vowed to help the fam­il­ies of the fallen. But he said it was Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who sits on the Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, who urged Fish­er to co­ordin­ate with the Pentagon. “I can ab­sorb it, but I can’t ab­sorb it in­def­in­itely. I’ll do what I can for as long as I can,” he said.

In his state­ment an­noun­cing the deal, Hagel said he warned Con­gress about the lapse in death be­ne­fits. “In the days after the shut­down, de­part­ment­al law­yers and budget of­fi­cials pur­sued every tool and op­tion at our dis­pos­al in an ef­fort to provide these be­ne­fits. Even un­der the Pay Our Mil­it­ary Act, we found that we lacked the ne­ces­sary au­thor­ity to make pay­ments to the fam­il­ies dir­ectly,” he said. Pentagon Comp­troller Bob Hale also men­tioned the lapse dur­ing a press brief­ing at the Pentagon be­fore the gov­ern­ment shut down. But it wasn’t un­til troops were killed in Afgh­anistan that Con­gress and the White House ac­ted to fix the prob­lem.

The Fish­er House Found­a­tion was foun­ded in 1990. It has built 63 Fish­er Houses ““ liv­ing fa­cil­it­ies near mil­it­ary hos­pit­als that fam­il­ies of wounded troops can stay dur­ing re­cov­ery ““ and is plan­ning to open an­oth­er in Nashville, Tenn., next month.

What We're Following See More »
MAJORITY OPPOSES ‘BATHROOM BILLS’
Poll: Three-Quarters of Americans Support LGBT Protections
59 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

A new poll by the Public Religion Research Institute "found 72 percent of Americans now favor passing laws to protect lesbian, gay and transgender people from discrimination, including three-quarters of Democrats and two-thirds of Republicans." A majority also opposes "bathroom bills," of the kind passed by North Carolina.

Source:
PROCEDURES NOT FOLLOWED
Trump Not on Ballot in Minnesota
21 hours ago
THE LATEST
MOB RULE?
Trump on Immigration: ‘I Don’t Know, You Tell Me’
1 days ago
THE LATEST

Perhaps Donald Trump can take a plebiscite to solve this whole messy immigration thing. At a Fox News town hall with Sean Hannity last night, Trump essentially admitted he's "stumped," turning to the audience and asking: “Can we go through a process or do you think they have to get out? Tell me, I mean, I don’t know, you tell me.”

Source:
BIG CHANGE FROM WHEN HE SELF-FINANCED
Trump Enriching His Businesses with Donor Money
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.

Source:
QUESTIONS OVER IMMIGRATION POLICY
Trump Cancels Rallies
2 days ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump probably isn't taking seriously John Oliver's suggestion that he quit the race. But he has canceled or rescheduled rallies amid questions over his stance on immigration. Trump rescheduled a speech on the topic that he was set to give later this week. Plus, he's also nixed planned rallies in Oregon and Las Vegas this month.

Source:
×