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Government Shutdown Update: Military Death Benefit Payments

Update: October 12, 2013

Last week, the deaths of several members of the U.S. armed forces serving overseas highlighted one of the many consequences of the federal government shutdown: that families would not receive payments for the funeral and burial expenses of our fallen warriors or the death benefit payments to which they are entitled.

To bridge the gap caused by the shutdown, the Department of Defense entered into an agreement with the Fisher House Foundation that would provide the family members of fallen service members with the full set of benefits they have been promised. Per the agreement, the Fisher House Foundation would be reimbursed by the government once the shutdown was over.

When NFDA became aware of this situation, it sent a letter to Rep. Jeff Miller, chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, that stated, in part:

Every day, our members serve these families and care for their fallen loved ones who have honorably served their country. They feel their pain and do whatever is necessary to ensure their funerals are a celebration of life of the fallen warrior and that they are honored and respected for their service to America.

To stand by and do nothing about this delay or postponement in these payments is unconscionable and dishonors the sacrifice these veterans and their families have made to preserve the freedoms our citizens enjoy today.

The Committee and Congress must act immediately to correct this untenable situation. NFDA and its members stand ready to do whatever is necessary to assist in this process.

NFDA is pleased to report that the House and Senate passed a bill restoring military death benefit payments to the families of soldiers who die overseas; the bill was signed into law by the president on October 10.


Update: October 6, 2013

Military Funeral Honors

Military funeral honors are typically coordinated through the Department of Defense (DOD); due to the shutdown, there has been a reduction in the number of personnel that typically render military funeral honors. National Cemetery Administration (NCA) staff will coordinate with families and funeral directors so that families' wishes can be met by DOD honor guards. The DOD believes that disruptions will be rare.

Some NCA cemeteries have full-contingent volunteer groups that can substitute for a DOD military honors team, if possible and appropriate. NCA plans to continue this coordination and use of volunteers during the shutdown.


Posted: October 1, 2013

Last week, Congress was unable to agree to a bill to fund the federal government and, subsequently, the federal government has shut down. However, a limited number of federal government services that are considered "essential" will still continue to operate, though some services may be available on a limited basis.

Burials in Veterans' Cemeteries

According to NFDA's contacts at the Veterans Administration, burials will continue at the national cemeteries, but possibly at a reduced rate due to cutbacks in interment crews. Burials will be scheduled as soon as possible, which could result in a slight delay, due to fewer staff available on premise to conduct burials.

For more information, visit www.va.gov/opa/docs/Field_Guide_20130927.pdf.

Social Security Administration (SSA)

Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments will continue uninterrupted with no change in payment dates.

Social Security field offices will remain open with limited services, and hearings offices will remain open to conduct hearings. However, Social Security card centers will be closed.

More detailed information about the impact of the government shutdown on SSA can be found online: www.socialsecurity.gov/shutdown/index.html.