Military Non-Profit Serves Grieving Families during Shutdown

militaryLosing a loved one in battle is devastating for any military family. But from October 1 to 10, this devastation was magnified by the government shutdown. With no spending authority, the Department of Defense could not pay 29 grieving families the promised death benefits.

Usually disbursed within 24 to 36 hours of a military loss, the benefits include a 12 month housing allowance, burial benefits, and a $100,000 “death gratuity”. The gratuity aims to “help the survivors in their readjustment and aid them in meeting immediate expenses incurred”. It covers travel to receive the casket at Dover Air Force Base, the funeral, and other costs until life insurance payments arrive.

The news sparked outrage across the United States. Ami Neiberger-Miller of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors stated that “When the serviceman swears that oath that says ‘I will protect and defend,’ we make a promise back to that person that if they do die in service…we will take care of their family.” Journalist Gayle Lemmon added “Washington seems only to be taking care of itself”.

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But one non-profit turned anger into action. The Fisher House Foundation, known for providing housing to families while veterans undergo medical treatment, offered affected families a grant to cover flights, hotels, and other funeral-related costs. According to the Foundation, “our focus is on the families” – they shouldn’t be “bearing the brunt of the government shutdown”.

On October 10, Obama signed a bill into law to restore death benefits payments to families of the fallen. But the generosity and responsiveness of the Fisher House Foundation remains an inspiration. And with the potential for another shutdown in January 2014, the non-profit may soon be needed again.

To support the Fisher House Foundation, please click here. Also, please consider donating to Op4G’s partners:  Give an Hour, Honoring the Path, and Still Serving Veterans.

Flickr photo credit: Bobby Yarbrough

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