February 15, 2018

Manchin and Capito Introduce Legislation to Ensure Service Member Death Benefits During Government Shutdowns

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) —along with Senators Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-N.V.)—yesterday introduced the Families of Fallen Servicemembers First Act.

When service members perished during government shutdowns in 2013 and 2018, their families were initially denied military death benefits. This bipartisan legislation would provide a permanent appropriation of funds to immediately pay military death benefits to survivors of service members killed during any future government shutdown.

“In 2013 when the government shutdown, more than a dozen brave service members were killed in action and I was outraged when their military death benefits were denied,” Senator Manchin said. “That’s why I’m joining my colleagues in introducing this bill to make sure that when the government shuts down, military death gratuities would never lapse and would always be immediately paid. These days, government shutdowns are all too common here in Washington and the families of these service members should never pay the price.”

“Our brave servicemen and women sacrifice so much to defend our country and keep Americans safe and free—selflessly putting their lives on the line every day,” Senator Capito said. “There are many consequences of a government shutdown, but it’s unacceptable that we would put ourselves in a position to deny military benefits to the families of fallen service members. This bipartisan legislation will ensure that whether the government is open or not, these families receive the benefits they’ve been promised for their loved one’s sacrifice.”

The longstanding purpose of the military death gratuity payment is to assist families of deceased service members in meeting their financial needs during the period immediately following a service member's death and before other survivor benefits become available.

The benefits covered by this legislation include:

  • Death gratuities for survivors of deceased military service members.
  • Funeral and burial expenses.
  • Authorized funeral travel, including to dignified transfer ceremonies.
  • A temporary continuation of a basic allowance for housing for dependents.

U.S. Representatives Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) introduced the same bill in the House of Representatives.

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