Nightly News   |  October 08, 2013

Military death benefit suspension hurts families

US troops in Afghanistan have some of the most dangerous jobs in government. But because of the shutdown, the families of those who have died in service of their country will not receive the death benefits they’ve been promised. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

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>>> good evening, the president and the speaker of the house fought back and forth verbally today, day eight of the government shutdown , meanwhile, all kinds of people are getting cheated out of salaries, benefits, medical treatment . and now we have learned of what may be the ultimate indigty, having to do with those that fought and died for this country. in the middle of the shutdown, the sad word that five americans were killed in afghanistan , but because of the shutdown, those five and others killed since october first will not get the death benefits that their families are supposed to be guaranteed. we have two reports on this tonight, beginning with nbc's andrea mitchell who broke the story this morning, and is here with us in studio, good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian, we have been talking about the shutdown for eight days, but in the middle of all of this pain, the fact that the families of the troops killed in afghanistan are not getting their death benefits is truly gut-wrenching. 12 years of war in afghanistan , far from of furloughs and fighting in washington, these troops have the most dangerous job in government. collins was on patrol when he was killed. he was only 19 years old.

>> it is hard knowing i won't get the phone call , and he is like i love you mom.

>> reporter: in milwaukee, as mother, shannon grieves her loss, she and other families of service members killed since october first will not get their death benefits, $136,000 usually paid within hours of the death, to cover funeral costs or the return of their loved one's flag-draped coffins.

>> while that may not be urgent for some, it is urgent for me. the sacrifices that our kids are making at the age they're making them, i can't understand how this will be a benefit that is with held, i don't understand it.

>> reporter: in kandahar province , sergeant patrick hawkins from pennsylvania, on his fourth deployment to afghanistan , a decorated army ranger killed while trying to help a wounded ranger. jennifer marino, also 25, a nurse from san diego , and part of the command cultural support team. 25-year-old cody patterson, from oregon, on his second deployment to afghanistan , special agent joseph peters , a 24-year-old intelligence officer serving two tours in iraq, father of a 20-month-old son, his wife issued a statement about the benefits, saying yes, it is upsetting because my husband died for his country and now his family is left to worry. my husband always said if something happened to me, they would always take care of us. i am a stay at home mom , he always