CRAIG CALLS FOR "ONE STOP INFORMATION" FOR WAR WIDOWS
Listens to moving testimony from Idaho war widow - Tiffany Petty
(Washington, DC) Sen. Larry Craig, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, today called for military, Social Security and Veterans' Administration officials to make life easier for military families after they lose a soldier. The Idaho Republican made his comments at a committee hearing held to examine how well the nation's current benefits system is performing for families who have lost a loved in military service.
"The testimony we heard today was stunning and upsetting. We have young women, primarily but not exclusively, who have lost loved ones in the military. Today we found out that many of those new widows are not getting the level of service they should be receiving. I'm angry and upset and that is why I am calling today for the military - Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marines - to do a much better job," Craig said.
His comments came just days after President Bush indicated that he wants to increase the payment families receive when a soldier is killed in combat.
Tiffany Petty, a 25-year-old mother of two from Craig's home state of Idaho, told the committee about the struggles she had learning of her husband's death - first being told that he was killed instantly and then finding out later that he died some time after being wounded. Then she told of military officials who were unable to give her clear information about the benefits she and her children could receive. Perhaps most difficult was finding out that her husband's funeral hadn't been paid for - nine months after he was buried.
"Those who lose a loved one in the service of the country are eligible for benefits from the Department of Defense, the Veterans' Affairs Administration and Social Security. I want those agencies to work together quickly to provide a 'one stop information' source, both in writing and on the Internet, where survivors can find customized, integrated information about their benefits. Benefits are of little use if survivors don't know about them," Craig said. "Marine Corps widows aren't any tougher than Air Force or Army widows. They just can't macho through."
Jennifer McCollum, a 31-year-old woman from Jacksonville, Florida, told the committee that help from the government agencies "seems to be the exception, rather than the rule." McCollum's son was born several months after her husband was killed in plane crash in Pakistan in 2002.