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
Add to Briefcase
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 »
WITH LIVE BLOGGING
Trump Deposition Video Is Online
23 hours ago
STAFF PICKS

The video of Donald Trump's deposition in his case against restaurateur Jeffrey Zakarian is now live. Slate's Jim Newell and Josh Voorhees are live-blogging it while they watch.

Source:
SOUND LEVEL AFFECTED
Debate Commission Admits Issues with Trump’s Mic
1 days ago
THE LATEST

The Commission on Presidential Debates put out a statement today that gives credence to Donald Trump's claims that he had a bad microphone on Monday night. "Regarding the first debate, there were issues regarding Donald Trump's audio that affected the sound level in the debate hall," read the statement in its entirety.

Source:
TRUMP VS. CHEFS
Trump Deposition Video to Be Released
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"A video of Donald Trump testifying under oath about his provocative rhetoric about Mexicans and other Latinos is set to go public" as soon as today. "Trump gave the testimony in June at a law office in Washington in connection with one of two lawsuits he filed last year after prominent chefs reacted to the controversy over his remarks by pulling out of plans to open restaurants at his new D.C. hotel. D.C. Superior Court Judge Brian Holeman said in an order issued Thursday evening that fears the testimony might show up in campaign commercials were no basis to keep the public from seeing the video."

Source:
A CANDIDATE TO BE ‘PROUD’ OF
Chicago Tribune Endorses Gary Johnson
1 days ago
THE LATEST

No matter that his recall of foreign leaders leaves something to be desired, Gary Johnson is the choice of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board. The editors argue that Donald Trump couldn't do the job of president, while hitting Hillary Clinton for "her intent to greatly increase federal spending and taxation, and serious questions about honesty and trust." Which leaves them with Johnson. "Every American who casts a vote for him is standing for principles," they write, "and can be proud of that vote. Yes, proud of a candidate in 2016."

NEVER TRUMP
USA Today Weighs in on Presidential Race for First Time Ever
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

"By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump." That's the message from USA Today editors, who are making the first recommendation on a presidential race in the paper's 34-year history. It's not exactly an endorsement; they make clear that the editorial board "does not have a consensus for a Clinton endorsement." But they state flatly that Donald Trump is, by "unanimous consensus of the editorial board, unfit for the presidency."

Source:
×