Obama Rejects Death Benefits Bill
President Obama has rejected a bill passed by both houses of Congress that would fund the death gratuity and death benefits normally paid out to beneficiaries of deceased servicemembers.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill that would authorize the Secretary of Defense to pay the two benefits: A tax-free $100,000 death benefit and an additional $10,050 death gratuity. The Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent.
All the bill needs is the President’s signature to become law.
The White House, however, opposes the measure, calling it “gimmicky” and “unnecessary.” White House spokesperson Jay Carney has said that the bill is “unnecessary” because the well-known military charity, Fisher House, has agreed to front the necessary money until the government is funded again.
Fisher House’s offer would cover the two government-funded death benefits (but not SGLI life insurance death benefits), plus necessary travel and lodging expenses associated with the death of the servicemember, burial and memorial activities, etc. Families often travel to Dover Air Force Base to receive their loved one’s remains as they are flown back to the United States.
My view: The President’s actions in opposing this bill, passed by overwhelming majorities in both houses, is petty, vindictive, ridiculous and destructive. Signing the bill into law would not alter the larger logic of either the shutdown or the looming debate over the debt limit, scheduled to come to a head over the next week.
Moreover, unless the DoD is willing to pay Fisher House or another charity an above-market rate of interest, it’s a waste of capital. Fisher House has better uses for its capital than to provide no or low-interest rate loans to the government, and the money that Fisher House has tied up awaiting government funding could be used to fund a new house or provide additional beds in shortage areas, or to fund more follow-on services to wounded veterans transitioning to life in their home towns, far from VA hospitals or military bases.
Instead this capital is being diverted to do a vital job that the President, throwing a temper tantrum, refuses to do, despite the overwhelming majority of both houses of Congress, and the overwhelming sentiment of the American people.
What do you think about this rejection of the bill? Is it justified since Fisher House has stepped in or is it an insult to our servicemembers and an irresponsible move by the government? Tell us in the comments!