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Rep. Hunter: Blame Obama for missing death benefits

A member of California’s delegation to the U.S. House of Representative says not only was Barack Obama integral to the fiasco that denied families of fallen soldiers in the U.S. military death benefits, he was using it for political advantage.

The comments came from Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., in an interview with Fox News.

“The president of the United States … could have fixed this with a pen stroke about nine days ago, or whenever they found out,” Hunter said.

“He didn’t do it … He used our military families as pawns.”

The allegations involve the estimated $100,000 in death benefit that gets paid to families of fallen U.S. soldiers for travel, funeral arrangements and such.

When parts of the U.S. government were shut down because spending authority expired after Democrats in the U.S. Senate refused to discuss compromises suggested by the U.S. House at the start of October, funding for the military ran out.

Congress immediately approved legislation to provide funding for pay and allowances for the military, which Obama signed.

But the military then refused to pay the death benefits to soldiers’ families, saying the benefits weren’t included in the congressional authorization.

Hunter said any reasonable understanding of the bill made it clear that the benefits were included.

So withholding them, “definitely” was intentional, he said.

“At some point in the Department of Defense somebody looked somebody else in the eye, and said, ‘Do not give these families the death benefits,'” he said.

“There might have been some ambiguity and the lawyers could argue over it, but [Secretary of Defense] Chuck Hagel, the president of the United States need to have the moral fortitude to pay these guys.”

He said, however, the “most likely” legal interpretation would have included the death benefits, because the bill specifically mentioned pay and allowances.

Further, he said no one from the White House contacted Congress about its perception of a problem.

“I think they wanted to do this on purpose. We have civilian control of the military. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel should have said get this done…”

Hunter said he would tell Hagel, “Sir, you did not do your job.”

It was reported on Friday that Obama finally signed an update, specifically authorizing the $100,000 payments, even though Obama spokesman Jay Carney had called it unnecessary since a private organization had volunteered to make up the payments to the families.

That private group was identified as the Fisher House Foundation, which works with veterans and their families.