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Foundation Keeps Shutdown from Stalling Payments to Fallen Veterans' Families

By Corey Allen-Young, Education Reporter, cyoung@ktuu.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 06:39:46 AM AKST
Updated On: Oct 10 2013 09:08:59 AM AKDT

Some members of Alaska's military community are upset after the soldier death benefit was almost denied because of the government shutdown.

When a soldier or airmen dies, the Department of Defense pays out approximately $100,000 within three days to families.

But those benefits were briefly put on hold because of the shutdown, with defense officials saying they could not provide the benefit.

The Fisher House Foundation agreed to temporarily take over payments and to be reimbursed later when the shutdown is over.

But veterans like Orlin Jenson call what's happening a slap in the face to everyone whose ever served in the military.

"That's total politics and they are taking it out on the people that are fighting to keep them free, its unbelievable," said Jenson who served in the Army during the .

"For these families to know that that's available but its an untouchable for them right now must have been absolutely heartbreaking," said Leslie Hufstedler-Alvarez, whose husband, Doyle, was killed during a patrol in Iraq in 2004 after driving more than 450 pounds of underground explosives.

Without those benefits she and her daughter Gracie would have struggled.

"These soldiers go to war and they are promised a number of things, first of all that their families that are left behind will be taken care of if anything happens to them."

Both Hufstedler-Alvarez and Jenson say the benefit should have never been in danger of going away.

Which is why their message to Congress and President Barack Obama is the same: figure things out before more families are hurt again.

"It's a terrible headache and a disgrace to the nation that this has even come to pass," said Hufstedler-Alvarez.

There hasn't been an Alaska military combat death since August 2012, but military officials say there are almost 1,300 soldiers and airmen on deployments around the world.