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Military Forum: Higher Gratuity Not for All Active Duty Deaths
Higher Gratuity Not for All Active Duty Deaths


About the Author

Tom Philpott has been breaking news for and about military people since 1977. After service in the Coast Guard, and 17 years as a reporter and senior editor with Army Times Publishing Company, Tom launched "Military Update," his syndicated weekly news column, in 1994. "Military Update" features timely news and analysis on issues affecting active duty members, reservists, retirees and their families. Tom also edits a reader reaction column, "Military Forum." The online "home" for both features is Military.com.

Tomís freelance articles have appeared in numerous magazines including The New Yorker, Reader's Digest and Washingtonian. His critically-acclaimed book, Glory Denied, on the extraordinary ordeal and heroism of Col. Floyd "Jim" Thompson, the longest-held prisoner of war in American history, is available in hardcover and paperback.

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Death Gratuity

BRAC Information

Readers of Tom Philpott's "Military Update" column sound off

May 20, 2005

Does the increase in the military death gratuity, which was moving through Congress, apply only to service members killed in combat? Some news articles say it applies to all those killed on active duty.

Also, what is the status of the increase now that it has been through both the House and the Senate?

Via e-mail

The combat-related death gratuity of $100,000 took effect May 11 when the president signed the Emergency Supplemental Wartime Appropriations Act (Public Law 109-13).

It applies only to deaths in combat or in designated combat zones, or from combat-related training as defined under criteria set down in the law that determines a disabled retiree's eligibility for Combat-Related Special Compensation. Eligible deaths under those criteria include those caused by dangerous activities such as parachute, diving or demolition duty; resulting from war games and other conditions simulating war; or caused by tools of war such as mishaps with military vehicles or other combat equipment.

The bigger death gratuity is retroactive to Oct. 7, 2001, the start of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Lump-sum death payments for non-combat-related deaths remain at $12,400.

The new law also provides an additional special death gratuity of $150,000, also for deaths from combat or in combat zones going back to that date. This, in effect, is the way Congress chose to apply retroactively the increase in maximum coverage under Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance, which is also part of the new law. 

Maximum SGLI coverage will jump to $400,000 from $250,000 effective Sept. 1, 2005. The increase will be automatic for all service members unless they opt out of SGLI or elect lesser coverage. Until Sept. 1, however, the additional $150,000 death gratuity, payable for active duty deaths in combat zones or resulting from combat-related training, remains in effect.

Because the wartime supplemental bill expires on Sept. 30, provisions to make permanent the combat-related death gratuity of $100,000 and SGLI coverage of $400,000 are included in fiscal 2006 defense authorization bills moving through Congress. Ė- Tom Philpott

Disability Reevaluation

I am a VA clinical social worker and believe the VA should reevaluate veterans and their disabilities at least annually. Some percentages would increase and others would decrease.

Additionally, I have been advocating that veterans who have a treatable condition be given the option of appropriate treatment or forfeit their disability. If they elect to receive a trial of appropriate treatment and recover some functionality which would lower their disability percentage, their pension should be continued unchanged but only through a reasonable rehabilitation/retraining period.

This would save our government billions of dollars annually while doing a better service to our veterans.

Alamogordo, N.M.


I was very disturbed by the astronomical amounts some of the 60 percent disabled veterans receive. My elder son, a non-Veteran, age 25, is 100 percent disabled, a paraplegic since July 2004, still in rehab and living at home with his parents. Yet he receives less than $700 per month in Social Security disability income. Out of that he still has to make co-payments for his medication and doctor visits, leaving $500 to buy food, toiletries and so on. Something is wrong with that picture.

Even his year-younger younger brother, soon to be out of the Army after six years, says it is BS how some "disabled or partially disabled vets" milk the system.

I am proud of both sons. One for fighting for the freedom of the peoples of Iraq (he was there for a year) and the other for not giving up on life. Good morning and thank you for your reply,

Clovis, N.M.

Not Best Deal

Having read feedback on Wal-Mart versus base stores, let me weigh to say military stores are not the best deals around.

At base food courts, for example, you can't use coupons from the daily newspapers to get a break on prices. Also prices at the commissaries we visit are extremely high for some items.

My wife and I first 'shop' the newspapers for sales first and then check the commissary to compare. Produce often is way more expensive in commissaries than in stores like Albertson's and Safeway.

When I see one of these DECA (Defense Commissary Agency) signs saying we'll save 20 percent at the commissary, I just wish they'd provide details on how they figured that.

Master Chief, USN-Ret.
Green Valley, Ariz.

Train and Ship

I have the answer to easing the impact of BRAC on local employment.

We have about a six percent unemployment rate in this country. We should create a Department of Employment and use the command structure, resources and training know-how of the military to train and ship people into those job vacancies throughout the country.

The backbone of the military has always been training. This is a chance to teach our people and end the practice of illegal immigrants taking jobs Americans do not want.

Enlistees in the program would have the opportunity to do any job for which they are certified. It could be part of an upward mobility program.

We can train and send Americans to jobs where needed, just as the military prepares for a wartime mission.

Ocean Springs, Miss.


When I hear about military bases closing, I think of the loss of military presence in our area.

The military is a shinning light for communities that have a base. Men and women in uniform set an example, both for schools and throughout the local community.

Memphis, Tenn.

Letters may be edited for clarity or length. Write to Military Forum, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA 20120-1111, send e-mail to militaryforum@aol.com or visit www.militaryupdate.com

© 2005 Tom Philpott. All rights reserved.



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