Bush Helps Military Families Get Death Benefits

Friday, March 16th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON – The Bush administration endorsed legislation Thursday to increase by $50,000, to $250,000, maximum death benefits for families of military personnel killed in a series of recent military disasters.

The legislation would make the survivor benefit increase, which had been scheduled to take effect April 1, retroactive to Oct. 1.

That would allow the additional benefits to go to the families of the 17 American sailors killed in the Oct. 12 terrorist bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

Families of the five Americans who were among six killed earlier this week in Kuwait when a Navy jet mistakenly dropped a bomb on the wrong location would also be eligible.

Also eligible would be the families of the victims of the March 3 crash of a cargo plane in Georgia in which 18 members of the Virginia Air National Guard and three Army crewmen were killed. Also: families of the Dec. 11 crash of a Marine tilt-rotor Osprey in North Carolina that killed four Marines.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi told a congressional panel that the president was endorsing a bill by Rep. Jo Ann Davis, R-Va.

Her original legislation would have made the military group life-insurance benefit increase retroactive to Nov. 1 but she agreed to the earlier date so that the families of the Cole victims would be included.

"Our military has been beset by a number of horrible accidents over the past months that have stolen a number of servicemen and -women from their families and other loved ones," Davis said in a statement.

"This will ensure that the families of those who opted for the maximum coverage and perished in these recent accidents will receive the maximum benefits," added Davis.