DOD expands eligibility for travel benefit
Stars and Stripes May 23, 2008
ARLINGTON, Va. — Each servicemember’s child, regardless of age, marital status or if they are blood relatives, can receive a travel or transportation allowance to attend the servicemember’s funeral, a Defense official said Thursday.
At the request of the Defense Department, Congress expanded who is eligible to receive a travel or transportation allowance to attend servicemembers’ funerals, said Mark L. Ward.
Ward is senior program manager for Casualty and Mortuary Affairs and Military Funeral Honors.
As part of the fiscal 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress gave a broader definition of children who are eligible for money from the government to attend servicemembers’ funerals, including adopted and illegitimate children, Ward said on Thursday.
"A lot of times in this particular business, when they say children of the deceased, they’re primarily thinking about blood relatives, and so by adding this additional clarification in the statute, this answered all of those questions and the dilemmas that the services faced for many years," he said.
The change also covers married children of servicemembers, who were previously ineligible for travel or transportation allowances to attend their parents’ funerals, Ward said.
"That was one of the big dilemmas that the services had to face, when they had a family that had a child of the deceased member who was married and a child who wasn’t married, we could only provide transportation to the one who was single, which caused a great deal of problems for the families," he said.
Congress has also added the person who is responsible for deciding how a servicemember should be laid to rest and a servicemember’s siblings to the list of those who are eligible for an allowance to cover the travel costs of attending a servicemember’s funeral, Ward said.
The moves were prompted by an earlier change in 2005, when Congress allowed servicemembers to choose who is responsible for deciding how they should be laid to rest, he said.
While the move was meant to allow servicemembers to choose someone other than their spouse to take on the responsibility of taking care of their remains, statutes at the time prevented such a person from getting a travel or transportation allowance under certain circumstances, Ward said.
"The only way the PADD [Person Authorized to Direct Disposition of Human Remains] would get transportation to burial is if no other person in the authorized list was provided government transportation," Ward said. "And so if we provided government transportation to the spouse and the children, then the PADD wasn’t authorized transportation."
Congress’ recent actions now cover all the people who should be covered for transportation costs to attend servicemembers’ funerals, he said.