Government shutdown sparks lawmakers to make legislation to restore military death gratuities

DUNEDIN - "I just remember stripes. I remember this two officers looking in and I see stripes and I knew right then and there. I knew what it was," said Kim Allison.

That's how she learned she needed to pack a suitcase.

"If you can imagine just getting this awful news and trying to figure out how you're going to get there," said Allison.

We can't imagine.

But in March the Dunedin mom got on a plane to Dover Air Force Base to meet her son.  She says her extended family could never have made it so last minute without Pentagon benefits.

"Just to see how they cared for him and cared for his sacrifice. There was, everything was sacred," she said.

21-year-old Zack Shannon died in a Blackhawk helicopter crash in Afghanistan and just this weekend four more joined his ranks.

"This particular situation is unthinkable. A great injustice is being done to our service members and their families," said U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, (R) North Carolina.

The government shutdown, going on 9 days now, sparked house lawmakers to pass legislation to restore the money when it comes to so-called military "death benefits."

"Without that help, I don't know what we would have done," said Allison.

The benefits take care of all expenses for a family's stay in Dover to pay their respects and ensure a $100,000 dollar cash payment to survivors.

Now the U.S. Department of Defense says a private foundation that works with the James A. Haley VA Hospital is stepping in to help.

"We're basically going to cover the gap in funding the benefits to these families who have suffered enough until this shutdown is over or until legislation is enacted that will fund it," said Ken Fisher, CEO Fisher House Foundation.

It's a gap this mom says her family couldn't have gotten through without help.

"Without all this, this horrible situation would be totally unbearable," she said.

It's still not clear if the Senate will take up the legislation passed by the House late Wednesday afternoon.

 

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