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Update: House votes to restore benefits to fallen soldiers’ families

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According to Congressman Tom Graves (R-GA-14), the US House of Representatives has voted to approve H.J.Res. 91, the Honoring the Families of Fallen Soldiers Act. The bill clarifies that the Obama Administration does have funding for military death benefits.

The resolution was passed in a 425 to 0 vote, according to Congressman Sanford Bishop.

Graves says the House passed the Pay Our Military Act (H.R. 3210) on September 29, 2013, and the act was signed into law by President Obama the next day. This law was intended to ensure that military payments would continue in the event of a partial government shutdown.

If passed into law, H.J.Res. 91 will reinforce the existing law, making it abundantly clear to the Administration that military death benefits are funded.

"I thank all the men and women in uniform, and their families, for their service and many sacrifices," says Graves. "We have a sacred obligation to care for the families of the soldiers who gave all, and I hope the Senate will pass this bill and the president will sign it into law as quickly as possible."

President Obama is calling for swift action on the issue, and says he expects the problem to be resolved today, according to CNN.

Fisher House offers advance grant to families of soldiers killed during shutdown

A letter from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) says Fisher House Foundation, a group that offers assistance to families of troops in need, has offered an advance grant to families of soldiers killed in combat during the government shutdown, according to CNN.

A spokeswoman for Fisher House told CNN the group would work out a repayment plan with the families once the government begins to reimburse the death benefits.

Families of soldiers killed combat not receiving death benefits during government shutdown

After four soldiers have died in combat this weekend, including two Fort Benning Rangers, the continued government shutdown is creating an even harsher reality for the families of the deceased.

Congressman Sanford Bishop (Ga-D) confirmed that the families of soldiers killed in combat are not currently receiving the usual benefits they would receive, due to the government shutdown.

According to the National Military Family Association website, family members of soldiers who die in combat are supposed to receive a $100,000 death gratuity benefit within 36 hours of their soldier's death. This money is intended to cover immediate family expenses and funeral-related costs not covered by the government.    

There is currently no process in place to pay this death gratuity during the government shutdown.

The funeral benefits typically provided by the government for active-duty deaths will not be paid during a shutdown either, according to the same website.

Bishop, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, says he has co-sponsored a bill to reinstate the funds even if the shutdown continues. The bill will take at least a few days to reach the President's desk, provided it is first agreed upon, and passed by the House and the Senate.  

Meanwhile, other organizations are working to help these families while the funds are not coming through. So far, the Ranger S5 shop has raised several thousand dollars with an online fundraiser on their website. Jason Cluxton from the Ranger S5 Shop says all of the money they received from this effort goes to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, designated for the families of soldiers who die during the shutdown.

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