By now, the story of fallen soldiers’ families being denied death benefits, ostensibly because of the government shutdown, is all over the news. Congressmen thought these benefits were included in CRs passed to fund the military while the shutdown ensued. So, how did this happen? NBC’s coverage includes this intriguing tidbit (emphasis mine):
But after reviewing the law, the Defense Department concluded that it cannot send payments to affected families because the law did not specifically grant them the authority to pay anyone other than the service members themselves. That legal determination, one official said, was ultimately made by inter-agency legal counsel – meaning Department of Defense, Department of Justice and White House lawyers.
This is the same DOJ that pulled down their Amber Alert website due to the shutdown, only to reverse course and restore it when the optics were too bad for the administration. They’re not above inflicting pain in order to make a point, in other words.
So, here’s a question our impotent press corps might want to ask: what lawyers were involved in this decision and precisely what was the rationale for the denial? Names, please. And surely there must be some written record of the reason for this “legal determination.”
Libby Sternberg is a novelist.