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 »
STAFF PICKS
These (Supposed) Iowa and NH Escorts Tell All
6 hours ago
NATIONAL JOURNAL AFTER DARK

Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:

  • Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
  • Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
  • They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
  • One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
Source:
STATE VS. FEDERAL
Restoring Some Sanity to Encryption
6 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
What the Current Crop of Candidates Could Learn from JFK
6 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Hillary Is Running Against the Bill of 1992
6 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Trevor Noah Needs to Find His Voice. And Fast.
7 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”

Source:
×