09 October 2013

We can't bury our dead, but Congress can go to the gym

As our elected leaders continue to play politics with our lives, the ongoing government shutdown is having tragic consequences. 

When a soldier dies in battle, the family is paid a survivor benefit that is meant to help pay for his or her burial and other expenses.  Twenty-six soldiers have died since the shutdown began Oct. 1 and, therefore, the payments have been suspended. 

In a CNN story, as if grieving her son was not enough to deal with right now, the mother of a soldier who died in Afghanistan questioned if she would have to “be on a payment plan for the rest of my life so my son can have the services he deserves.”  Isn't that a nice way for our country to honor those who have given their lives in service? Disgraceful...

So instead of our governmental representatives negotiating with each other, the Pentagon negotiated with Fisher House Foundation, a private charity, to step in and pay the families the $100,000 they receive almost immediately following a soldier’s death. The Pentagon will then reimburse the Foundation when the shutdown is over.  When it’s not having to step in and rescue the government, Fisher House Foundation provides housing for family members who want to be near loved ones while they receive treatment in military hospitals... think of it as a military version of Ronald McDonald House.

Fisher House also operates Hero Miles Program, which uses donated air miles to fly families free of charge to where their military loved ones are hospitalized. 

At least Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has the good graces to be embarrassed about the situation, not that his mortification does these families any good. 

An indignant U.S. House (as if they aren't primarily to blame for the shutdown continuing) voted unanimously to resume paying survivor benefits today, but the Senate has yet to vote. At least Fisher House has come in to provide the funds in the interim.

As the CNN story pointed out, military families are being hurt in myriad other ways, including the closing of subsidized grocery stores, child-care programs, and non-emergency medical care. 

But you will be happy to know that the Congressional gym remains open, paid for by our tax dollars. 

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