Statement by Secretary Hagel on Death Gratuities
By American Forces Press Service
| | October 10, 2013
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.
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. In the days before the shutdown, we warned Congress and the American people that DoD would not have the legal authority to make these payments during a lapse in appropriations. 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.
In the last 24 hours, however, the Department of Defense was approached by the Fisher House Foundation, which had generously offered to make payments to these families from its own funds. In consultation with the Office of Management and Budget, DoD has determined that we can enter into a contract with the Fisher House Foundation to provide these benefits. The Fisher House Foundation will provide the families of the fallen with the benefits they so richly deserve. After the shutdown ends, DoD will reimburse the Fisher House for the costs it has incurred.
The Department has no higher priority than taking care of our service members and their families. Our men and women in uniform must know that the Department will always fulfill its responsibilities to them and to their families. Congress has responsibilities as well, and it has abdicated them. Along with the rest of the Department's leaders, I will continue to work every day to address the very real impact that the government shutdown is having on our people, and I once again call on Congress to fulfill its basic responsibilities and restore funding for the federal government.