By Jeremy Herb
“I am offended, outraged, and embarrassed that the government shutdown had prevented the Department of Defense from fulfilling this most sacred responsibility in a timely manner,” Hagel said in a statement.
The halted death benefits payments sparked wide outrage in Congress this week from both parties, and the issue briefly became a flashpoint in the shutdown fight.
House Republicans argued that the Pentagon had the ability to pay the death benefits under the military pay bill that passed last week, but the Pentagon disagreed.
The Pentagon announcement came as the House voted to allow the Pentagon to pay out the benefits, 425-0.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Tuesday that it was “disgraceful” the benefits weren’t being paid as the House fast-tracked a bill to cover the payments.
Before the House vote, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that President Obama was “very disturbed” to learn of the problem and ordered the Pentagon to work with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to find a solution.
“He was not pleased to learn of this problem, and he has directed the OMB and his lawyers to find a solution, and he expects to have one today,” Carney said.
Carney did not say when the president was told about the issue.
Hagel said that the Fisher House Foundation had approached the Pentagon within the last 24 hours with an offer to make the payments for the death benefits.
Since the shutdown began Oct. 1, 26 service members have died, according to a Pentagon spokesman.