(WASHINGTON) — The families of two Army soldiers killed early Saturday morning when their Apache helicopter crashed in California will not receive the $100,000 death benefit they are entitled to because of the ongoing federal government shutdown.
When the same situation happened during the last government shutdown in 2013, families received the benefit only after Congress passed a law enabling retroactive payments.
The $100,000 death benefit is provided to families for the death of a service member under any circumstance either stateside or overseas.
Families typically use the benefit to cover the travel and funeral costs associated with the loss of their loved one. The shutdown does not affect families from receiving life insurance payments provided to service members.
On Sunday, Senator Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., made an impassioned speech on the Senate floor urging her colleagues to make sure that military families get what they deserve.
“If acting now to ensure military pay and death benefits continue during this shutdown brings relief to just one military family, that will be worth it,” said Duckworth. “If it prevents just one survivor from experiencing even more pain and hardship as they struggle with the grief of losing a loved one killed in action while defending our great nation, then it will be worth it.”
“The time to act is now,” said Duckworth. “This should not be a partisan issue. Every member of Congress supports paying our military personnel and ensuring military death benefits are not delayed. So why delay now? There’s no good reason.”
The two soldiers died when their AH64 Apache helicopter crashed early Saturday morning at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, according to Lt. Colonel Jason Brown, an Army spokesman.
“The cause is currently under investigation and next of kin notifications ongoing, therefore we can provide no further details at this time.”
Brown confirmed that the $100,000 death benefit is not being provided to the families of any service members who die during the federal government shutdown.
“Death benefits to families of military members killed in the line of duty will not be paid until appropriations are enacted,” said Brown.
Following a political firestorm over the inability to make the payments during the 2013 shutdown, Congress passed legislation to allow the retroactive payment of the death benefit to the at least 29 families affected.
Back in 2013, nine days into the shutdown, the Pentagon announced a partnership with the Fisher House Foundation where the charity would pay the $100,000 to families. It was days later that Congress passed a law that would allow the Pentagon to pay families the amount during the shutdown. Once that law took effect, Fisher House announced it would give families an additional $25,000.
The two soldiers killed in Saturday’s crash were from the 4th Infantry Division based at Fort Carson, Colorado.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the death of two 4th Infantry Division Soldiers at the National Training Center today. Our heartfelt prayers and condolences go out to their families and friends during this difficult and painful time,” said Major General Randy A. George, commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson.
“The loss of any Soldier truly saddens everyone here at the Mountain Post and it is a tremendous loss to the team.”
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