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House OKs Death Gratuity Bill

October 30, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Families of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks would receive a $12,000 death payment -- double the current benefit and tax-free -- under a bill the House passed unanimously Wednesday.

The payment would apply to soldiers killed after Sept. 10, 2001. The goal is to help families defray the immediate costs of funerals.

"It's unconscionable to me that a knock on the door by a military chaplain is followed by a knock on the door from the tax man," said Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas). "Sadly, this is the case."

"This is long overdue," Rep. Michael R. McNulty (D-N.Y.) said.

The House and Senate passed several bills granting various tax benefits to military personnel and reservists this year. The bills all differed, however, and lawmakers have been unable to reconcile their differences.

House lawmakers passed the death gratuity bill again, hoping that it would become law more quickly.

Military and reserve associations have stepped up pressure on lawmakers to pass the legislation as the end of the year nears.

"Pardon my skepticism," said Joyce Raezer, director of government relations for the National Military Family Assn., "but we've watched one house take the initiative on an issue, only to have it stop at that house and not go to the other one."

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