The Garden City Telegram
10/12/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Shut out

Selfish political partisanship delivers more painful fallout.

Americans have plenty of reasons to be disgusted by the partial government shutdown.

But one of the more inexplicable consequences of suspended government operations came following the deaths of four U.S. Army soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

Before the government shutdown — one spurred in large part by bickering over the Affordable Care Act — Congress passed and President Obama signed a bill allowing the military to be paid during the federal closure.

Unfortunately, the legislation didn't cover existing death benefits to include payments of $100,000 to each military family, a 12-month basic allowance for housing and burial benefits.

So, even as plans were under way to transport the bodies of the fallen soldiers to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, their loved ones found their federal government in essence looking the other way, as the shutdown stripped away funds set aside to help them travel to meet the plane, among other needs.

Families of troops who made the ultimate sacrifice deserved the best their federal government had to offer. Instead, they received what amounted to a slap in the face.

It led U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black to issue a stern, yet needed message.

"Lord, when our federal shutdown delays payments of death benefits to the families of children dying in far-away battlefields, it's time for our lawmakers to say enough is enough," the chaplain said. "Cover our shame with the robe of your righteousness. Forgive us, reform us, and make us whole."

Blame Democrats and Republicans alike in Washington for the colossal failure. Fearing political backlash, lawmakers in Congress eventually did scramble to fill the benefits gap. But the damage already was done.

Meanwhile, all Americans should have been heartened to see others make offers to help with the costs of suspended death benefits. For example, charities such as Fisher House, which works with veterans and their families, reached out to help the affected military families.

In doing so, they put the interests of people in need first — and delivered a lesson for our representatives in the nation's capital who continue to let us down by putting partisan politics above all else.