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Hagel’s interpretation of law withholds survivor benefit payments to those who earned them
Oct 24, 2013 | 126 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Editor’s note: The following was submitted by a local who found himself, to put it mildly, a bit put off by what has, or better yet, what has not been happening in Washington, D.C.. The inquiry, hastily written and without the benefit of editing, was directed to Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel. An automatic response was received with several comments and links to sites with information related to three topics: 1) Adding a Name to the Vietnam Memorial “Wall”, 2) U.S. Flag History and National Flag Day, and 3) Locating Service Members or Getting a Mailing Address. The automated system politely asked whether or not these items were a satisfactory response . . . “I don’t think so,” Baker said, “and regretfully I do not expect ‘the follow-up to my follow-up’ to be any more satisfying. “

Subject: Pay Our Military Act [Public Law No: 113-39], Military Pay and Allowances

Subject law was passed and signed by the President on 30 September 2013. I cannot comprehend the rationale in Secretary Hagel’s decision to interpret the law so strictly that they declined to follow through with survivor benefit payments to the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. The lack of transparency is also disappointing as you and your public affairs folks seem to be hunkered down in a bunker deep in the Pentagon.

I believe that an immediate resignation by those responsible for these despicable actions is the only honorable course of action. As a Viet Nam era veteran Secretary Hagel, you should understand exactly where I am coming from when discussing the responsibilities of leadership with regards to integrity and standing up for what is right.

The “pay and allowances” wording of the legislation signed by the President PRIOR to 1 October 2013 should have been sufficient to justify payments. While searching for an answer I discovered that that a group of House members sent a letter on 1 October 2013 detailing their concerns about the current administration’s decision to order massive DOD furloughs. Their letter clarified the intent of the law to ensure that all DOD military, civilian, contractors, and U.S. Coast Guard would continue to be entitled to pay and benefits. Armed with that letter, a competent leader would have been armed with the authority required to keep the DOD working and get survivor benefits paid. Any residual details could be worked out later, or clarified with a phone call to sponsoring members of this group.

Another opportunity lost to get it right was in actions taken by the Congressional Research Service. They reviewed the law and their interpretation was that the law authorized survivor benefits. My own amateur search of several government resources on-line revealed that the term “pay and allowances” included the kind of payments that you have denied to survivors.

It seems that you missed a number of opportunities to arm yourself with sufficient justification to make the payments? “Pencil Pushers” needed to stay out of this one and leave it to honorable leaders.

There is no excuse for the additional pain dealt to surviving family members. The only rationale, as sick as it is, is that this was just one additional opportunity to continue the plan to “make it hurt” for the purpose of garnering sympathy in the battle over whether or not the U.S. Government should have to live within it’s means like other working Americans do.

I’m sure you lay awake some nights wondering how many fewer names would be engraved on that memorial wall if leaders in high places had “fallen on their swords” when you were serving your country. Secretary Hagel . . . please identify those responsible and demand their resignations . . . even if it starts at the top!

Respectfully submitted.

Cliff Baker

Kenedy, TX
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