(WASHINGTON) — The government shutdown has not led to an end in combat operations in Afghanistan, but it has put a stop to the $100,000 death gratuity that the families of America’s war dead receive upon the death of a loved one there.
The $100,000 death gratuity is a payment that families receive within three days of the death of their loved one in a combat zone. It is among the many benefits that they receive upon the death of a loved one.
As Pentagon Comptroller Bob Hale explained prior to the shutdown the gratuity would still be paid out to families if the paperwork was being processed before the start of the shutdown.
For those deaths that occurred while the government shutdown was in effect, the death gratuity could not be processed until the end of the shutdown. Once the shutdown is over, the processing will begin and the payments will be made out in delayed fashion.
That’s no comfort for the families of the five confirmed U.S. fatalities that have occurred since the start of the shutdown a week ago.
Another program that has been suspended during the shutdown is one that pays for the travel of families to Dover to watch the return of their loved ones as well as burial and funeral expenses. These programs are separate from the death gratuity, which can be paid as either a lump sum or in installments.
However, there has been no interruption to other benefits including the $400,000 life insurance payments known as SGLI, which comes from a separate pot of money.
Other programs that are still being paid to military families are the Survivor Benefit Program (SBP), which is a monthly stipend based on deceased’s base duty pay that is paid by the Treasury out of a retirement fund. Also being paid is the Special Survivors Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) that is payable to the surviving spouse of active duty service members whose SBP is offset by Veteran’s Administration dependency and indemnity Compensation.
The death gratuity used to be $12,000 until 2005 when Congress passed a law that substantially increased it to $100,000. It also made the increase retroactive to Oct. 7, 2001 so families who’d lost loved ones in that time frame got the same payment. 2005 was also the same year that Congress increased the size of the life insurance paid to military families from $250,000 to $400,000 — also retroactive to Oct. 2001.
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