Local veterans speak out about fallen soldier death benefits - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken News, Weather, Sports

Local veterans speak out about fallen soldier death benefits

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COLUMBUS, Ga. -

Over the past few days veterans have expressed outrage over the lack of action from the government. One former Fort Benning commander is calling the situation "ridiculous."

While more than 20 families of fallen soldiers wait for death benefits from the government, the Fisher House Foundation is stepping in to alleviate some of the stress, but retired Major General Kenneth Leuer says the issue is out of hand.

"I hate to see, and I'm embarrassed that our country has to be prompted into doing something so relatively simple and necessary," says Gen. Leuer.

He says even though the families will get money from the $4 million gift granted by the Fisher House Foundation, they shouldn't have to deal with the widespread publicity during this time.

"Certainly they're grieving," says the general, "and now to have national debate and publicity over the payment is embarrassing to the nation and probably to the families."

Fisher House has already started to help since the shutdown, paying for four of the family members to get to Dover to receive their loved ones.

President David Coker told me over the phone that as soon as the Department of Defense gets them the information about who needs money, they'll start sending out checks.

CEO Ken Fisher says it's the right thing to do. "When a service man or woman raises their right hand and take the oath to go into the military to defend this nation," he says, "we, as a people, also take an oath. That is one, if they're wounded, we'll take care of them. That's physical or mental. And two, if they don't make it home, we'll take care of their families."

Coker says although the government is expected to pay the foundation back when an agreement is reached, the money is a gift for the families in need.

"I'm not surprised that they have stepped up to take care of this situation," Gen. Leuer says, "a very worthy organization, and really showing what they're all about."

If the shutdown doesn't end soon, it could also take a toll on veterans. The Veterans Affairs secretary told a house panel next month's disability checks may be halted for about 3.8 million veterans.

Jessi Mitchell

Jessi joined the WRBL news team in October 2012 after working as a freelance production assistant for MTV Networks in Los Angeles.
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