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Mourning military families won’t get government death benefits

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Courtesy of US Marines Twitter

WASHINGTON — The first two military families who will not receive death benefits because of the government shutdown have been named.

1st Lt. Clayton R. Cullen, of Indiana, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 (CW2) Kevin F. Burke, of California, who were both assigned to the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, were killed on Saturday when their Apache helicopter crashed in a training accident at Fort Irwin, California.

“Under a government shutdown, the Department of Defense has no authority to pay death benefits to these families,” chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White told CNN on Sunday. A US defense official confirmed to CNN that the families of the Fort Irwin crash will not receive the emergency $100,000 death benefit.

As well as the payment, the benefits include funeral and burial reimbursements. It also includes a gratuity for travel to funeral or memorial services — or to Dover Air Force Base, where the bodies of troops who die overseas are typically sent.

“We are all deeply saddened by the deaths of 1st Lt. Clayton R. Cullen and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kevin F. Burke,” said Col. Scott Gallaway, commander, 4th CAB, 4th Inf. Div. “These gentlemen exemplified all the attributes we expect from our very best leaders. They were selfless, mission focused, and committed to their teammates. Our heartfelt prayers and condolences go out to Clayton’s and Kevin’s Families. These two young leaders left an indelible mark on the entire Iron Eagle team. We will forever be better Soldiers, and a more combat-ready aviation brigade, due to their leadership.”

The cause of Saturday’s crash is under investigation.

On Sunday, a Maryland-based charity promised to ensure the families of fallen troops will be paid survivor benefits during the shutdown. The Fisher House Foundation will ensure benefits including the $100,000 payment will be paid within days of a death, Fisher House spokesperson Kerri Childress told CNN.

Childress told CNN on Monday that they have not yet been contacted by the Department of Defense regarding the two soldiers killed Saturday.