UPDATE: Body of fallen Milwaukee Marine returns home, given honor guard

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Statement from Sen. Tammy Baldwin:

“This is wrong and it needs to be fixed.  My office has been in contact with the Department of Defense and this needs to be corrected so that Marine Lance Corporal Jeremiah Collins Jr.’s family gets the benefits they deserve.  This is yet another example of why it irresponsible for the Republican House to refuse an up or down vote on a clean funding bill that will open the government and end this reckless shutdown.”

 

Statement from Sen. Ron Johnson:

“I’m disgusted to hear that the Obama administration is refusing to make the military’s emergency payments to families of service members killed in action.

“The payments cover a family’s funeral costs and help them handle bills until ordinary survivor benefits begin. The Obama administration announced Monday that the Department of Defense “does not currently have the authority to pay” these emergency benefits"

“Much of the government is open. Our military is on duty. Common sense should tell the administration that providing emergency benefits to the families of men and women killed while defending the country is just as uninterruptible. It is certainly more urgent than the extra money the administration has spent to barricade monuments in Washington D.C. against visits by World War II veterans."

“Harry Reid should permit votes now on bills the House has passed to fund vital parts of government affected by the Obama administration’s shutdown. If there is any doubt about making these emergency payments to military survivors, the House will pass and the Senate should approve a bill to permit them.”

 

 

UPDATED Wednesday, October 16, 2013 --- 2:51 p.m.

From our news partner, WITI in Milwaukee:

MILWAUKEE (WITI) — The body of fallen Marine Lance Corporal Jeremiah Collins, Jr. returns to Milwaukee on Wednesday, October 16th.

Collins, 19, died on Saturday, October 5th while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan as an intelligence specialist. His death was listed by the Dept. of Defense as “non-hostile.”

Collins was assigned to Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. His body has returned to the United States.

Collins’ body will be flown from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to the 128th Air Refueling Wing on Wednesday. From there, there will be a procession to Krause Funeral Home at 9000 W. Capitol Dr. Honor Guards from fire, police and EMS organizations are being requested to line the procession route — to honor Collins and his service to country.

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UPDATED Wednesday, October 9, 2013 --- 2:20 p.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration says it has worked out a solution to allow the families of fallen military members to receive death benefits during the government shutdown.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the Fisher House Foundation has agreed to make the payments from its own funds. At the end of the shutdown, the Defense Department will reimburse the foundation for the costs it has incurred.

The White House said earlier Wednesday that President Barack Obama was "disturbed" to learn that families of fallen soldiers were not receiving death benefits. The Defense Department typically pays families about $100,000 within three days of a soldier's death, but officials say the shutdown was preventing those benefits from being paid.

The Fisher House Foundation is a charity organization that works with veterans and military families.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, October 9, 2013 --- 1:46 p.m.

From NBCnews.com

The House of Representatives has unanimously passed legislation that would assure that families of fallen soldiers are given the death gratuity benefits they were promised, but not given, because of the government shutdown.

The vote was 425-0.

The legislation provides one way that the "death gratuities" designed to assist the families of deceased soldiers with funeral and travel costs can be restored as the government shutdown drags on.

The White House also says it has directed its lawyers to work with the Office of Management and Budget and the Pentagon to find a solution outside of legislative action.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said that a solution is expected by the end of Wednesday.

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

The vote in the House could start a fast-track process to solve the payment issue, although it's not clear whether the legislation or executive branch action will be the ultimate fix for the problem.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters that the benefits will be restored "without any question."

Reid said that the Senate will "see what the House does" and that the White House and the Pentagon are also working together to see if they can "do something about" the issue as well.

The bill, titled the Honoring the Families of Fallen Soldiers Act, was quickly drafted Tuesday in the wake of a series of NBC News reports over the past two days detailing the military’s delay of the $100,000 “death gratuities” for the families of fallen soldiers.

Many members of Congress were surprised by reports that families of fallen soldiers had not been receiving the death gratuity benefit considering they had passed legislation, which President Obama signed into law the night before the shutdown began, that authorized "pay and allowances" to be distributed to troops and their families during the shutdown. Some said the decision to not distribute these benefits was a misinterpretation of that law by the Pentagon.

On Friday, Oct. 4, Rep Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), the Chairman of the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the Armed Service Committee, sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel requesting an explanation for why the Death Gratuity was not being paid under the Pay Our Military Act.

"It has come to my attention that the Department of Defense is not currently paying several critical allowances earned by members of the Armed Forces that have made the ultimate sacrifice," Wilson wrote in his letter. "These include, the Death Gratuity, which is payable to a designated beneficiary."

"We cannot in good conscience deny these benefits to the survivors of deceased members," Wilson writes in the letter. "I request that you provide me a summary of which of the pays and allowances on (a list attached to the letter) that will not be paid and the rationale for non-payment."

Senate Chaplain Barry Black opened Wednesday's session with a prayer that chided members of Congress over the death benefits issue, saying "enough is enough."

"Lord, when our federal shutdown delays payments of death benefits to the families of children dying on far-away battlefields, it's time for our lawmakers to say enough is enough," Black said during his morning prayer, a daily Senate ritual. "Cover our shame with the robe of your righteousness."

Also on Wednesday, the House passed a "piecemeal" measure to restore funding for the Federal Aviation Administration as the shutdown continues. The White House has said it would veto that legislation, saying that a full re-opening of the government is necessary instead.

NBC's Kasie Hunt contributed to this report.

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UPDATED Tuesday, October 8, 2013 --- 9:20 p.m.

It's difficult for Shannon Collins to deal with. First she lost her son. Now, she's trying to figure out how to pay for his funeral

"The one thing you never want to see is a uniformed officer at your door” says Collins

Marine Lance Corporal Jeremiah Collins Jr. ,19, was on patrol in Afghanistan when he was was killed Saturday. But, unlike those killed before, Collin's family won't receive a "death gratuity,” money typically wired to families within 36 hours to help with immediate expenses like a funeral.

"In the end,the government is hurting the wrong people” she says.

The Collins family also won't receive money to fly to the Dover Air Force Base, in Delaware, to view the dignified return of Jeremiah’s body.

"Am I going to be on a payment plan for the rest of my life with my son to have the the services he deserves?” says Collins.

In a statement, US Senator Ron Johnson says: "I’m disgusted to hear that the Obama administration is refusing to make the military's emergency payments to families of service members killed in action."

Meanwhile US Senator Tammy Baldwin says: "This is wrong and it needs to be fixed."

Collins' body has returned to the U.S. Right now, his remains are in Dover. They won't be returned to Milwaukee until later this week or early next week.

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UPDATED Tuesday, October 8, 2013 --- 12:48 p.m.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

From NBCNews.com

The shutdown of the federal government is now affecting some families when they are most vulnerable, denying them a $100,000 benefit to help with funeral expenses of loved ones killed while serving the country.

The families of five U.S. service members who died over the weekend in Afghanistan have been notified that they won't be receiving the "death gratuity" normally wired to relatives within 36 hours. The benefit is intended to help cover funeral costs and help with immediate living expenses until survivor benefits typically begin.

The money also helps cover costs to fly families to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to witness the return of their loved ones in flag-draped coffins.

"The government is hurting the wrong people," said Shannon Collins, who lost her son over the weekend in Afghanistan.

"Families shouldn’t have to worry about how they’re going to bury their child," she told NBC News. "Families shouldn’t have to worry about how they're going to feed their family if they don’t go to work this week."

Marine Lance Corporal Jeremiah M. Collins Jr., a 19-year-old from Milwaukee, died Saturday while supporting combat operations in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. He was one of five service members killed in Afghanistan over the weekend, including four troop members who died Sunday in an IED attack.

An autopsy for Collins is underway to determine his cause of death. His mother said she doesn't know when her son's body, now in Dover, will be returned to his family for burial.

"Washington may be shut down, but it's still asking people to go to war,” said Gayle Tzemach Lemmon of the Council on Foreign Relations. “When people realize that they can serve and fight for their country, but that their families will get an I.O.U. until the shutdown is over, I think they're just shocked."

Collins said she feels lucky to have a job and supervisors who will allow her to take paid time off to take care of her son's return. For those who aren't as fortunate, the death gratuity may be critical to their survival and sense of closure.

"While that benefit may not be urgent for me, it’s urgent for somebody. There's somebody who needs to fly their family home. There’s somebody who needs to have expenses covered, or be able to take off work to handle the affairs of their loved one," she said. "And to know that the government shutting down will delay their ability to handle their business, some people just won’t be able to do it.

While, financially,she is able to address her son's return, Collins said she still could use help in paying for his funeral.

"I don't necessarily have $10,000 to bury my son," she said. While she is working with the funeral home to make arrangements, she wondered: "Am I going to be on a payment plan for the rest of my life so that my son can have the services that he deserves?"

A law passed last week to continue paying civilian members of the military during the shutdown, but does not allow for payouts of the death benefit to the families of the fallen, officials told NBC's Andrea Mitchell. Republican aides told NBC news they are currently drafting legislation to address the issue, and that it could be considered as early as Wednesday.

Collins said the government needs to "re-evaluate and determine the priority" of how it funds government programs during the shutdown.

"For the sacrifice our kids are making, at the age that they’re making them, I don’t understand how this can be a benefit that’s withheld. I won’t ever understand it," she said. “How can we do that to these young men and these young women, who come back having lost their lives? I just really hope that the government really figures this out.”

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UPDATED Monday, October 7, 2013 --- 4:20 p.m.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- The body of a Wisconsin Marine who died in Afghanistan has been returned to the U.S.

The body of Lance Cpl. Jeremiah Collins Jr. of Milwaukee arrived at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware Monday.

Collins' family says the 19-year-old intelligence specialist died Saturday at Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province. Collins' mother, Shannon, tells the Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/GD15Ih ) her son's death is under investigation.

The Department of Defense confirmed Collins' death but released no details.

Collins was a graduate of Hamilton High School in Milwaukee. He was assigned to Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Collins joined the Marine Corps in June 2012 and was promoted to his current rank in May 2013.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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Posted Monday, October 7, 2013 --- 9:45 a.m.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- The body of a Wisconsin Marine who died in Afghanistan is being returned to the U.S.

The military says the body of Lance Cpl. Jeremiah Collins, Jr., of Milwaukee, is arriving at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware Monday.

Collins family says the 19-year-old intelligence specialist died Saturday at Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province. Collins' mother, Shannon, tells the Journal Sentinel her son's death is under investigation.

Collins is a graduate of Hamilton High School in Milwaukee.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press


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