To great fanfare and applause, the Pentagon announced this week that President Bush would propose dramatically increasing the “death benefit” paid to the families of U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan to $250,000.
Talk about jumping in front of a crowd and calling it a parade. Lawmakers have been pushing to raise the death benefit for years, but the White House has fought against it. In 2003, the Army Times reported that the Bush administration was strongly opposing a proposal to double the $6,000 benefit paid to families of troops who died on active duty, calling it wasteful and unnecessary.
What’s more, military officials say it’s a good start, but the benefit hike is still too narrow. The new death benefit only applies to soldiers who are killed on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving out soldiers killed anywhere else. Especially in this day and age when the fight against terrorism has no borders, the Defense Department should not decide benefits based on geography.
During a hearing on the proposal, Adm. John B. Nathman, vice chief of naval operations for the Navy, told the Senate Armed Forces Committee, “They can’t make a distinction. I don’t think we should either.” Gen. T. Michael Moseley, the Air Force’s vice chief of staff, agreed, “I believe a death is a death and I believe this should be treated that way.”