WASHINGTON (Sept. 18, 2018) – Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) applauds the addition of H.R. 1928 Families of The Fallen Service Members Act to the minibus carrying the defense appropriations package and is proud to have led the way in advocating for this important change to the law. This bill protects military families from being inadvertently and adversely impacted by government shutdowns that suspend immediate financial assistance to families whose loved one dies while on active duty.
When a service member loses their life while serving on active duty, their family is provided a tax-free stipend of $100,000, known as a death gratuity payment. Grieving families rely on these funds to address immediate financial impacts that often occur after the death of a servicemember – such as travel and lodging for extended family members to travel to duty stations or to Dover Air Force Base for the return of remains; funeral costs; and other expenses that are often unique to military families who live far away from their hometowns and support networks. In the past when the government has shut down, these funds were frozen until the shutdown expired, and military nonprofit groups generously contributed to families to cover what the government should have immediately provided.
Through a unified advocacy effort between Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), the Military Order of the Purple Heart, and WWP, along with help from other veterans service organizations, Congress announced they would authorize death gratuity payments even during a government shutdown.
“While infrequent, government shutdowns, which are inherently political, had an unfortunate and egregious impact on those who sacrifice most for our country,” said René Bardorf, WWP Vice President of Government Affairs and Community Relations. “Service in the military comes with great rewards, but there are also inherent risks associated with training for and defending our country. Unfortunately, service personnel may be wounded, injured, or become ill in the line of duty, and sadly that sometimes results in the untimely death of our young heroes who serve us. That’s why over the past year Wounded Warrior Project has worked alongside numerous veterans service organizations and senior government officials to advocate on behalf of our families of the fallen. We are proud of this collaborative work to ensure this never happens again.”
“TAPS is grateful to see the inclusion of the provision to guarantee the payment of the death gratuity in case of a government shutdown,” said Bonnie Carroll, TAPS President and Founder. “TAPS has seen many grieving families over the years impacted because of this oversight, and we are grateful to see a permanent solution.”
"When servicemembers put on the uniform each day, whether in combat or in peacetime, they take comfort in the fact that their families’ basic financial needs will be met, should something happen to them,” said Douglas Greenlaw, National Commander at Military Order of the Purple Heart. “Under no circumstances should political gridlock ever prevent our nation from keeping that sacred promise to them. This legislation will prevent that from ever happening again, and MOPH is deeply grateful to Representative Connolly and Senator Coons for their leadership on this issue."
On Capitol Hill, Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware and Rep. Gerald Connolly of Virginia’s 11th District led the charge to help make this critical bill become a reality.
“There should never be any question of our commitment to honor our troops, particularly those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and their families,” Coons said. “I am glad the defense appropriations bill includes our bipartisan provision to ensure that whether the government is open or not, we will meet our sacred obligation to our fallen service members and their loved ones. I also appreciate the efforts of the more than two dozen veterans service organizations that supported the bill and advocated for it on Capitol Hill. I look forward to seeing this bill signed into law to ensure that military death benefits are never again subject to congressional inaction.”
“Never again will a government shutdown cause a grieving military family to be denied a death gratuity payment during their time of mourning,” Connolly said. “This really is the very least we can do for families who have made the ultimate sacrifice. I am grateful my bipartisan legislation was included in the government funding bill, and I appreciate the work of the committee on this important reform. It is the right thing to do for military families. I also want to thank the military and veterans service organizations who helped us secure this reform. They lived up to their reputations as fierce advocates for our servicemembers.”
To learn how you can support WWP’s mission and the united community of veterans service organizations advocating in Washington, DC, visit https://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/programs/government-affairs.
Contact: Mattison Brooks – Communications Specialist, Government & Community Relations firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.969.1120
About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers – helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more: https://newsroom.woundedwarriorproject.org.