Widow speaks out on suspension of military death benefits

by: Greg Suskin Updated:


ROCK HILL, N.C. - Congress acted on Wednesday to fix what some called a devastating result of the government shutdown.

Lawmakers blamed an error in a defense department funding bill for the sudden end to the death benefit paid to a soldier's family, after a death in the line of duty. The one-time payment is usually $100,000.

The ongoing government shutdown held up that benefit for more than a dozen families who lost loved ones in Afghanistan since last month.

"It's sickening. It's wrong," said Carole Reinke of Rock Hill. Her husband Gavin was killed in Iraq in May of 2006, when a roadside bomb exploded. He was an army combat engineer, who left her and a young daughter behind.

His last wish was to be buried at Arlington. However, her family couldn't afford such a funeral, including the transportation and arrangements. She said the death benefit payment allowed her to give her husband his final wish.

"I've been down that road. I know what these families are going through," Reinke said. "I can't imagine having to go through the worst possible moment they'll ever have to face, and having to worry about a financial burden on top of it."

Reinke said within a day of learning of her husband's death, there was an officer at her door with a check from the government.

"That's how you pay the house payment, the car payment, that's how you put dinner on the table," she said.

South Carolina Rep. Mick Mulvaney spoke with Channel Nine on Wednesday the moment after he left the floor of the House of Representatives.

"We thought we'd dealt with this last week," Mulvaney said, "when we passed a previous bill for military-related funding."

However, due to what Mulvaney calls government bureaucracy, money for continuing the death benefit, was not included in the bill.

Lawmakers voted quickly to restore the money Wednesday afternoon.

"we wanted to make sure absolutely, a hundred percent, explicitly, that this benefit shall and will be paid, immediately," he said.

Reinke said she wanted to speak out, because the issue is close to her heart. She didn't think anyone else would raise their voice.

"We owe our soldiers more," she said. "We owe their families more."

On Wednesday, a private charity also got involved, and planned to pay the death benefits until the government reopens, and reimburses it.