After an outpouring of generosity from the American public, the Fisher House Foundation is sending a $25,000 check to the families of each of the fallen troops whose death benefits were temporarily suspended by the government shutdown, the national nonprofit announced.
The donation, which totals $725,000 and will be issued to 29 families, comes after President Obama signed the Fallen Heroes and Families Assistance Act last week.
The legislation reinstates the Department of Defense’s standard death gratuity, a $100,000 payment that spouses and parents of fallen troops use to reimburse funeral costs, housing allowances and relocation expenses.
The Fisher House Foundation, which provides lodging to patients at 61 military hospitals, including Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon, offered to cover the benefits when the federal government said it couldn’t, on the condition that it would be compensated after funding was restored.
“Since finding out about this terrible problem, Fisher House has stood ready to bridge the gap and pay the benefits due the families of our fallen heroes,” said the foundation’s chairman and CEO, Ken Fisher. “Now that our assistance is no longer needed, we wish to recognize the families who were impacted by the shutdown.”
Since 1990, the Fisher House Foundation has saved 180,000 military families and veterans more than $200 million in lodging and transportation costs.
Last week, Fisher House officials said donations to the charity increased twentyfold in the wake of news that they were stepping in to help make the payments.
Pentagon spokesman George Little said the DOD is moving “expeditiously” to pay each family the $100,000 death gratuity it is owed.
Citing federal privacy laws, Fisher House spokeswoman Cindy Campbell could not disclose the names of the families who will receive donations. None is expected at Fort Gordon, however, and two are expected at Fort Benning, Ga., where two soldiers died in Afghanistan last week.
“These benefits are huge,” Campbell said. “Not only are families dealing with the overwhelming grief of an unexpected loss, they, like everyone else, have bills to pay and this cushions the blow.”
Campbell said that the Fisher House was happy to step in and help as needed but that the foundation is glad the government fixed the problem.