Family of JBLM soldier killed in Afghanistan denied death benefits due to shutdown
Family and friends of an army nurse from Joint Base Lewis-McChord are mourning her death after she was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. And the government shutdown is adding to their misery.
1st Lt. Jennifer M. Moreno, 25, was one of four killed in Sunday’s blast.
Moreno served as a clinical staff nurse on a medical surgical unit at Madigan Army Medical Center.
She was in Afghanistan volunteering as part of a team helping support Afghan women caught up in the ongoing battles.
“She was a member of what is called a cultural support team, which are women assigned to those special operations teams that raid houses in the middle of the night. Her role was to deal with those women found in the house,” says CBS Pentagon correspondent David Martin.
She also helped bring health care to the women.
Moreno’s body is being flown back to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware along with her three fellow soldiers. Normally, the Pentagon would pay the airfare for families to be there for the transfer ceremonies. But because of the shutdown, the Department of Defense is prohibited from paying those expenses, adding an additional burden to their already heavy hearts.
Martin says the family is also being denied the payment usually given a family to help make immediate arrangements for ceremonies, burial and other needs.
“Her family would receive an immediate lump sum payment of $100,000 in cash tax free.”
Now, they’re left to fend for themselves during their time of grief.
“This is pretty outrageous,” says KIRO Radio’s Don O’Neill. “She was willing to go into harm’s way in order to help these women. And then as a result of this you get a knock at the door saying ‘hey your daughter is no longer with us she is coming home in a casket and once she gets to Dover and you want to bury her, it’s kind of on you.'”
Luckily, several organizations including the Lead the Way Fund and Fisher House have stepped in to get the families to Dover and help them in their time of grief.
What angers Don even more is the fact that families and volunteer organizations have to scramble while Congress continues to get paid and enjoy most of the perks of office.
“The Congressional gym is open today according to one report,” Don laments. “And then you have one of our own putting their lives on the line and now charities have to step in to take care of their family members. That’s outrageous.”
The family members will eventually get paid. But KIRO Radio’s Ron Upshaw says Congressmembers backing the shutdown should be ashamed they are putting the families through such stress.
“You have a handful of elected representatives that have ground our country to a standstill in terms of these sorts of operations and they’re standing there pointing fingers at each other and today Barack Obama stood behind a podium for over an hour answering questions and not wanting to budge an inch,” Ron says. “I mean that is adding insult to injury.”