Oct. 9 - The U.S. government shutdown takes its toll on families of Americans killed in combat, as their tax-free benefit payments are stalled. Jillian Kitchener reports.
Lawmakers are scrambling to make sense of the latest development in the government shutdown. Death benefit payments to families of fallen soldiers have been suspended. And it's taking a personal toll on five families who lost their loved ones in Afghanistan this past weekend. Senator Dick Durbin says the benefits need to be restored. (SOUNDBITE)(English) SENATOR DICK DURBIN, SAYING: "And sadly, the support which we always give to these families is not there. It's not there. Customarily, within 24 to 36 hours, they are given a sum of money, an advance on the benefits that that soldier earned so that they can take care of funeral expenses and the obvious needs of their family. We can't do that because the government is shut down." Shannon Collins is the mother of a U.S. Marine who died in Afghanistan. (SOUNDBITE)(English) SHANNON COLLINS, SAYING: "While that benefit may not be urgent for me, it's urgent for somebody, for the sacrifice that our kids are making at the age that they are making them, I don't understand how this can be a benefit that's withheld." The urgency is felt by families of the five fallen Americans who arrived at Dover Air Force Base this morning. They will not be receiving the customary $100,000 tax-free payment which helps with their immediate financial needs. Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs. (SOUNDBITE)(English) SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS, ERIC SHINSEKI, SAYING: "If the shutdown does not end in the coming weeks, via (veterans affairs) will not be able to ensure delivery of One November checks to more than 5.18 million beneficiaries. That accounts for 6.25 billion in payments people are expecting." The White House says it will work with congress to find a solution. (SOUNDBITE)(English) WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY, JAY CARNEY, SAYING: "The president was very disturbed to learn of this problem and he directed the Department of Defense to work with the Office of Management and Budget and his lawyers to develop a possible solution. And he expects, the president expects this to be fixed today." Until a solution is presented, millions of beneficiaries will continue to feel a financial strain - victims of a government stalemate.