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Government shutdown affecting military death benefits: Charity steps up

Government shutdown affecting military: Fisher House Foundation has offered to pay the military death benefit of $100,000 while the government shutdown continues.

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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (l.) and Secretary of the Army John McHugh (2nd l.) salute the remains of Army Pfc. Cody J. Patterson at Dover Air Force Base, Oct. 9. Hagel said Wednesday that families of troops who die during the government shutdown will receive a death benefit payment, despite shutdown restrictions on the Pentagon, thanks to a deal reached with Fisher House Foundation.

Roland Balik/U.S. Air Force/Reuters/Handout

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The Obama administration, scrambling to tamp down a controversy over suspended death benefits for the families of fallen troops, announced Wednesday that a charity would pick up the costs of the payments during the government shutdown.

"The Fisher House Foundation will provide the families of the fallen with the benefits they so richly deserve," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement, adding that the Pentagon would reimburse the foundation after the shutdown ended.

Hagel said Fisher House, which works with veterans and their families, had approached the Pentagon about making the payments. The Defense Department typically pays families about $100,000 within three days of a service member's death, but officials say the shutdown was preventing those benefits from being paid.

A senior defense official said the government could not actively solicit funds from private organizations but could accept an offer.

The failure to make the payments has stirred outrage on Capitol Hill and at the White House. Obama spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that the president was "disturbed" when he found out the death benefits had been suspended and demanded an immediate solution.

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