Yesterday, U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., expressed his disappointment over the Department of Defense decision that they did not have the authority to pay death gratuities and other key benefits for the survivors of service members killed in action during the government shutdown. Chambliss, a senior member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee and vice chairman of the U.S. Senate Select committee on Intelligence, voted in favor of the House -- passed legislation, which provides explicit authority to the Department of Defense to disburse death gratuities and related benefits for survivors of deceased military service members.
H.J. Res. 91, the Honoring the Families of Fallen Soldiers Act, was passed Tuesday in the House of Representatives by a vote of 425-0 but blocked in the Senate when Majority Leader Harry Reid objected. Today, at the request of Senate Republicans, the resolution was considered and passed by unanimous consent. It now goes to the president's desk for his signature.
"Among those who have given their lives in service of our nation in recent days are two Army Rangers assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, headquartered at Fort Benning in my home state of Georgia," said Chambliss. "These elite soldiers were serving on the front lines in Afghanistan, fighting for democracy and our American way of life, when they made the ultimate sacrifice. I have since been informed the Department of Defense believes it lacks the authority to make automatic Death Gratuity Payments, to transport the next of kin to Dover Air Force Base so they can receive their fallen warrior, and to provide funeral allowances for the appropriate military honors. This is simply unacceptable, and it is incumbent upon us to fix this. It has been my great privilege to visit Fort Benning and meet with the members of the 75th Ranger Regiment over the years. They live by the motto that "Rangers Lead The Way,' and they serve our country regardless of federal funding, domestic politics, or government shutdowns. That is exactly what these brave individuals did in Afghanistan, and unfortunately it is our lack of leadership in Washington that has created undue hardship and stress for their loved ones in their toughest time of need."