Military group, aid organizations step up to help grieving military families as government shutdown continues

(CBS News) Outrage is rising over the impact on grieving military families as the ninth day of the partial government shutdown begins.

The Pentagon says during the shutdown, it cannot give financial assistance to relatives of service members killed in combat. The bodies of four of those fallen Americans are coming home Wednesday.

Special section: Government shutdown showdown 2013

Since the shutdown started, 17 servicemen and women have been killed in combat. Normally their families would receive $100,000 from the military within 36 hours to help pay for immediate needs. But now, those payments are not going out and, like everything else associated with this shutdown, they've gotten caught up in a partisan feud.

Military death benefits enable grieving family members to travel to Dover Air Force Base to greet their loved one's flag-draped casket returning from overseas. The money also helps them pay for the funeral.

But for the families of Army Ranger Sgt. Patrick Hawkins, First Lt. Jennifer Moreno, and 15 others, the money simply isn't there because Congress is still fighting over how to fund the government.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said, "I say to those families, your government has let you down in the time of your need. There is no excuse for this."

Luckily, there are people like Jim Regan. Regan said, "We'll take care of the airplane ride. We'll take care of the out-of-pocket expenses. We'll take care of the hotel."

Regan's son James was killed in Iraq in 2007, which led him to start the Lead the Way Fund, raising money to help the families of dead and wounded Army rangers.

Now he's vowing to fill the void left by a crippled government. Regan said, "You can't expect a family that sacrifices their child, all right, or their young man -- or their wife, and not be able to step up and take care of them. It's morally -- morally wrong."

Others have stepped up, too. Including the Fisher House Foundation, which is dedicated to giving wounded troops and their families a place to stay while they heal, but now says it will pay the full $100,000 per family during the shutdown.

Ken Fisher, chairman of the Fisher House Foundation, said, "It was a no-brainer. We needed to bridge the gap not only for the families, but because the government was not doing what it was supposed to do."

But some top House Republicans, including Speaker John Boehner, of Ohio, argue the military itself is to blame for the lapse in benefits -- not Congress. Boehner said, "We gave broad authority to the Department of Defense to pay all kinds of bills, including this. And frankly, I think it's disgraceful that they are withholding these benefits."

Republicans argue that the bill Congress passed last week to pay the troops during the shutdown also covered these benefits, CBS News' Nancy Cordes added on "CBS This Morning." Pentagon lawyers disagree, but either way the House is going to vote yet again Wednesday to explicitly authorize these benefits while Democrats say the best way to deal with this issue is to reopen the entire government, no strings attached.

Watch Nancy Cordes' full report above.

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