Obama seeks immediate fix to stalled military death benefits

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 09, 2013 1:32 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama directed government lawyers to find an immediate fix for stalled aid for the families of soldiers killed in the line of duty during the government shutdown, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Wednesday.

Obama signed a law just before the shutdown allowing the Pentagon to pay the military, but lawyers said the bill did not permit the government to pay a $100,000 tax-free payment to families of fallen troops during the impasse.

At least five families of soldiers killed last weekend in Afghanistan were affected by the suspension, U.S. Senator John McCain said. The Republican lawmaker said on Tuesday that members of Congress should be "embarrassed" and "ashamed" for the lapse.

Obama was "very disturbed" when he heard about the lapse, and directed lawyers at the Defense Department and White House budget office to find a way to resume the payments, Carney told reporters.

"The president expects this to be fixed today," Carney said.

He said the Pentagon told Congress that it would be "legally unable" to pay death benefits in the event of a shutdown, but that the issue "was not explicitly addressed" in the law that allows the military to continue to be paid.

(Reporting by Mark Felsenthal and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Christopher Wilson and Eric Beech)