FUMO BILL WOULD INCREASE DEATH BENEFIT FOR GUARD MEMBERS
HARRISBURG, June 15, 2005 – Families of Pennsylvania National Guard members would receive a death benefit of $250,000 if the solider is killed while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, under legislation introduced today by Sen. Vince Fumo (D-Philadelphia.)
Currently, beneficiaries receive just $12,000 from the federal government. A bill pending before the United States Congress would increase the amount to $100,000, but it has not passed.
"Those who have been called up to active duty for an extended period of time during an armed conflict are making tremendous sacrifices, both personal and financial. They are away from their families, and they are away from their jobs. If they give the ultimate sacrifice by losing their lives, we should show our gratitude by helping their loved ones to provide for themselves," said Fumo.
Many National Guard members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan receive much higher pay in civilian life. When they are serving on active duty for extended periods, their family budget suffers, meaning that families are often already in difficult financial circumstances if the guard member is killed.
"Although I think starting the war in Iraq was a huge mistake, I do support the men and women who are serving there. And this is the very least we can do for them and their families at this terrible time in our history," Fumo said.
The money would be paid to the spouse of the soldier. If there is no surviving spouse, the benefit would go to the surviving child or children.
Upon passage of the bill, there would be an immediate cost to the state of $1 million for the four Pennsylvania guard members who have been killed in action since the beginning of the Afghanistan and Iraq hostilities. That money, as well as any death benefits paid in the future, would come from the state General Fund.
Fumo’s legislation, however, also establishes the Fallen Patriots Memorial Fund within the State Treasury, to defray some of the cost. Taxpayers would have a check-off option on their tax return to dedicate a portion of their refund, or to enclose a contribution, to the death benefits program.
"Beyond putting a ribbon on their car or mailbox, the Memorial Fund is another way for people to show tangible support to our troops," Fumo said.
The legislation was introduced with 12 bipartisan co-sponsors in addition to Fumo. It is numbered SB 771.
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