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Government shut down denies death benefits to families of soldiers killed in combat

Updated: Tuesday, October 8 2013, 09:53 PM CDT
Reported by: James Tully

RUTHERFORD -- A Cumberland County community remembered a man who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country Tuesday. Over the weekend, 25-year-old Sgt. Patrick Hawkins was killed in Afghanistan trying to rescue a fellow ranger. 

Now families of fallen soldiers, like Hawkins, are feeling an unfortunate side-effect from the government shutdown. A death gratuity that those families are entitled to is being withheld.

During the shutdown, Congress voted to make sure the military still got paid. However, the Department of Defense determined that paying out a $100,000 death gratuity to the families of fallen soldiers was just not possible.

It's left local veterans upset and has sent several lawmakers scrambling to correct this as soon as possible.

"For me, it's a slap in all veterans' faces. I just don't have the words, I'm totally disgusted," Commander Chuck Kuebaugh, ret., said. How Kuebaugh felt today was echoed on the Senate floor by another veteran, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona.

"I'm ashamed. I'm embarrassed. All of us should be," McCain said, adding that innocent Americans have fallen victim to the reality that he and his constituents cannot sit down like grown-ups and fix this problem.

The families of five soldiers killed in Afghanistan over the weekend, including Hawkins of Carlisle, found out that the typical $100,000 compensation they would be receiving from the military was being withheld due to the government shutdown.

It's left local veterans like Patrick Morrow shaking their heads in disbelief.
"Our government, once they gets their heads together and get this straightened out the money will be there, but the hardships they are going to share until that comes, it shouldn't happen," Morrow said.

U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-11, agrees and is co-sponsoring a bill that would make sure families of these fallen heroes receive the death benefits. Barletta is hopeful that bill hits the floor and makes its way to President Obama's desk this week.Government shut down denies death benefits to families of soldiers killed in combat

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