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New benefits proposed for kids who lose parents in Iraq
by Lisa Hoffman
Scripps Howard News Service


January 26, 2005

Washington - As the number of American children who have lost a parent in the Iraq war edges toward 1,000, a measure now before Congress would boost government benefits for them.

On Monday, Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, and Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., introduced legislation that would create for the first time a $25,000 death benefit for children of GIs who die on active duty.

The bill also would extend the time the children would qualify for military health insurance and more than triple the compensation each child gets monthly.

"We owe the families of those who have lost loved ones in active duty our gratitude and support," DeWine said in a statement. "Caring for the families who have lost so much is one of the costs of going to war."

Through the first week of January, the 1,346 U.S. troops who had died since the start of the war left behind at least 962 children, according to a Scripps Howard News Service study.

Military experts have said that the number of American children left bereaved by the Iraq war is proportionally unprecedented. Unlike in previous wars, GIs today are more likely to be married and older than troops in the past. The reliance in Iraq on reserve forces _ who tend to be older and even more settled than active-duty soldiers _ also has resulted in more offspring at home.

Under the new legislation, which would be retroactive to October 2001:

  • The one-time, tax-free death gratuity of $12,000 that goes to every spouse would rise to $100,000. Children under 18 - who do not now get a death benefit - would each be given $25,000 at age 21, to help pay for college.
  • Every child would be covered by military health insurance until age 21, or 23 if the child is a student. Now, children have the health coverage for just three years after the death of the parent. After that, they can continue coverage, but at the cost charged to military retirees.
  • Each child would receive a monthly $750 check and the surviving parent would get $1,500 each month. Now, spouses receive $993 monthly while children get $247 a month. Spouses also get a separate payment of $250 a month now if they have children.

Co-sponsoring the legislation with DeWine and Durbin are Sens. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.; George Allen, R-Va.; Norm Coleman, R-Minn.; Tim Johnson, D-S.D.; Barack Obama, D-Ill.; and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.


Reach Lisa Hoffman at hoffmanl(at)

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