Gov't Shutdown Impacts Fallen Soldier Benefits

Pentagon officials say "death gratuity" can't be covered during the government shutdown

Families of fallen soldiers will have to wait for key death benefits owned to them due to the federal government shutdown, according to officials with the Pentagon.

In what’s just another sign of the shutdown’s toll on people across the nation, $100,000 in death benefits meant for families of troops killed in action have been suspended, Pentagon officials confirmed Tuesday.

The benefits, called a "death gratuity," are usually wired to families within 36 hours.

Also delayed to families are a year’s worth of housing allowance paid in a lump sum and reimbursements for burial costs.

Included in the military families denied the benefits are relatives of five American soldiers killed in Afghanistan over the weekend, including 25-year-old San Diegan Lt. Jennifer Moreno.

Shannon Collins, a mother of one of the soldiers killed, shared her frustration over the matter.

"The government is hurting the wrong people," Collins told NBC News. "Families shouldn’t have to worry about how they’re going to bury their child. Families shouldn’t have to worry about how they're going to feed their family if they don’t go to work this week," Collins added.

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Veterans were outraged over the suspension Tuesday.

“It's absolutely terrible. The circumstances are egregious,” said Jack Harkins, Chairman United Veterans Council of San Diego County. "Our lawmakers, those responsible for funding government, failed to make provisions to prevent this from lapsing for any period of time."

The situation regarding the benefits began last week when Congress passed a law that would continue paying the military during the shutdown.

However, when Pentagon officials studied the law it was determined that it did not cover the death gratuity, a defense official told NBC News Tuesday.

NBC 7 spoke to Congressmen Duncan Hunter who said the delays should have never happened.

"The House, and the Senate and the President passed and signed into law the Military Service Members Act about a week and a half ago to make sure that this kind of stuff got taken care of. These are D.C. bureaucrats [and] lawyers in the administration who chose to interpret this the wrong way."

Hunter said paying families of fallen soldiers was a top priority for Congress and that he believed the benefits would be given to families by the weekend as the shutdown enters its second week.

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