TODAY   |  October 10, 2013

Lawmakers knew military kin wouldn’t get death benefit

There is growing anger across the country after the government failed to provide fallen military families with a $100,000 they usually receive. Four families who lost loved ones will receive the money from a charity, which the government is promising to pay back when the shutdown is over. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

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>> the government's failure to provide for families of fallen u.s. service members. now, we are learning politicians were, in fact, warned about this, nbc correspondent andrea mitchell is here this morning. good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, savannah. when we first reported the story on tuesday on "today," there was outrage, how could we not pay benefits to men and women who had died serving the country. this morning, it is clear, despite all that outrage the past few day, people in washington knew this would happen before the government shut down. for days now, we've heard the outrage on capitol hill .

>> it's disgraceful that they're withholding these benefits.

>> now, they're being denied death benefits because of the senseless shutdown.

>> i'm ashamed. i'm embarrassed.

>> lawmakers complaining that families of fallen u.s. service pebs are not getting emergency death benefits because of the government shutdown . the outrage spread to the white house . wednesday, president obama told dorn gensler.

>> when i heard about this story, i told the department of defense within our administrative pow es, woe should be able to get that fact.

>> reporter: several days before the shutdown the pentagon warned this would happen.

>> we should with required to do bad thoengs our people. for example, we couldn't pay death gra tus for people who do i during the relapse.

>> reporter: wednesday, four service members who died last weekend, arrived at dover air force base . the house passed a bill to restore benefits for families.

>> how dare we not provide these grieving families for the necessary support in their time of need.

>> reporter: wednesday the white house scrambled to find a fix.

>> i think a lot of veterans feel right now is that they're stuck in the middle of this political debate. whether it be death benefits, va comp and pension.

>> reporter: ken fisher who heads the private organization for benefits and family, stepped in to pay the benefits after seeing our reports on "today."

>> they're grieving. they're suffering enough. why on earth should they have to worry about where their next dollar is coming from.

>> reporter: in illinois, a restaurant posted a message offering to do fate 100% of their profits wednesday to the families of the fallen.

>> maybe if one person does it, 100 more will do it and we'll help people out.

>> reporter: the white house will reimburse the charity once the shutdown is over. another place in tampa, florida is stepping up to present money to those troops killed this past weekend. matt.

>> thank you very much. retired colonel jack jacobs was gave pedal for his heroic actions. we have the pentagon, both end of pennsylvania avenue . where does the blame lie if your opinion?

>> there is plenty of blame, it lies at both ends. somebody recently said the most, the biggest threat the most dangerous threat to the world in the united states is that terrain between the white house on one end and the congress on the other. they both have a lot to answer for.

>> the national commander of the vfw, jack, had this to say, it's absolutely appalling and nothing short of a travesty that elected officials continue to receive paychecks and benefits white while not providing for those who deserve it most. if the government is unable to help veterans, what has this done to the trust that needs to exist between the military and the government?

>> it has eroded it quite substantially t. most vocal people, of course, are those who have been in the service and are now out. people inside the service are very, very quiet and for good reason. if this continues, by the way, we ain't seen nothing yet.

>> let me mention the veteran's secretary says it continues, nearly 4 million vets won't get disability checks. more than 500,000 vets and surviving dependents will not receive pension payments.

>> if you think it can't happen to you. when the government runs out of money, which will be on or before the 1st of november, unless the debt ceilingis raised, there will be no social security payments either. so a lot more people will be affected by this malfeasance in washington. very, very unpleasant.

>> colonel, good to see you.