Sens. Chris Coons, D-Delaware; Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota; Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana; Jerry Moran, R-Kansas; Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada; and Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia, introduced on Feb. 15 the Families of Fallen Servicemembers First Act.

When service members perished during government shutdowns in 2013 and 2018, their families were initially denied military death benefits. This legislation would provide a permanent appropriation of funds to immediately pay military death benefits to survivors of service members killed during any future government shutdown.

The longstanding purpose of the military death gratuity payment is to assist families of deceased service members in meeting their financial needs during the period immediately after a service member's death and before other survivor benefits become available.

The benefits covered by this legislation include death gratuities for survivors of deceased military service members; funeral and burial expenses; authorized funeral travel, including to dignified transfer ceremonies; and a temporary continuation of a basic allowance for housing for dependents.

Reps. Gerry Connolly, D-Virginia, and Tom Rooney, R-Florida, introduced the same bill in the House of Representatives.

“We have a duty as Americans to support those who serve and their families,” said Coons. “In the words of President Lincoln, we must meet our sacred commitment to those ‘who have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan.’ I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this bill into law and ensure that these benefits are never subject to Congressional inaction.”