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 »
‘DON’T BOO. VOTE.’
Obama: Country Is Stronger Than Eight Years Ago
13 minutes ago
THE LATEST

In a speech that began a bit like a State of the Union address, President Obama said the "country is stronger and more prosperous than it was" when he took office eight years ago. He then talked of battling Hillary Clinton for the nomination in 2008, and discovering her "unbelievable work ethic," before saying that no one—"not me, not Bill"—has ever been more qualified to be president. When his first mention of Donald Trump drew boos, he quickly admonished the crowd: "Don't boo. Vote." He then added that Trump is "not really a plans guy. Not really a facts guy, either."

‘HILLARY CLINTON HAS A PASSION’
Kaine Sticks Mostly to the Autobiography
55 minutes ago
THE LATEST

Tim Kaine introduced himself to the nation tonight, devoting roughly the first half of his speech to his own story (peppered with a little of his fluent Spanish) before pivoting to Hillary Clinton—and her opponent. "Hillary Clinton has a passion for children and families," he said. "Donald Trump has a passion, too: himself." His most personal line came after noting that his son Nat just deployed with his Marine battalion. "I trust Hillary Clinton with our son's life," he said.

TRUMP IS A ‘CON’
Bloomberg: Neither Party Has a Monopoly on Good Ideas
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

Michael Bloomberg said he wasn't appearing to endorse any party or agenda. He was merely there to support Hillary Clinton. "I don't believe that either party has a monopoly on good ideas or strong leadership," he said, before enumerating how he disagreed with both the GOP and his audience in Philadelphia. "Too many Republicans wrongly blame immigrants for our problems, and they stand in the way of action on climate change and gun violence," he said. "Meanwhile, many Democrats wrongly blame the private sector for our problems, and they stand in the way of action on education reform and deficit reduction." Calling Donald Trump a "dangerous demagogue," he said, "I'm a New Yorker, and a know a con when I see one."

TRUMP’S ‘CYNICISM IS UNBOUNDED’
Biden: Obama ‘One of the Finest Presidents’
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

Vice President Biden tonight called President Obama "one of the finest presidents we have ever had" before launching into a passionate defense of Hillary Clinton. "Everybody knows she's smart. Everybody knows she's tough. But I know what she's passionate about," he said. "There's only one person in this race who will help you. ... It's not just who she is; it's her life story." But he paused to train some fire on her opponent "That's not Donald Trump's story," he said. "His cynicism is unbounded. ... No major party nominee in the history of this country has ever known less."

BAD NEWS FOR CLINTON
Trump and Clinton Equally Disliked
6 hours ago
THE DETAILS

According to the most recent Gallup poll, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are equally disliked. The poll, conducted between July 18 and July 25, shows both major party candidates for president are viewed favorably by 37 percent of respondents and unfavorably by 58 percent of respondents. This poll is bad news for Clinton, who has received better favorable and unfavorable ratings in nearly every poll over the last year.

Source:
×