Families of military service members who die overseas in non-combat incidents will now be able to have their travel expenses to Dover Air Force Base covered so they can receive their loved ones when they return.
The Department of Defense announced the new policy on Friday. It will lessen the financial burden for more families attending dignified transfer ceremonies at Dover, the military’s largest mortuary facility.
Under the new expanded policy, the Pentagon will also be able to approve payments for families if the Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner orders an autopsy of fallen service members.
The Defense Department’s previous policy since 2009 was to only authorize payments for families of service members who die during combat operations.
“This important change in policy will allow the Department better to honor and serve the needs of our fallen and their surviving family members,” Maj. Carla M. Gleason, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said in a statement to CNN.
Lawmakers in Congress have been pushing for this change in policy.
Earlier this week, the House passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which included a provision that would require the Pentagon to cover the travel of family members to Dover Air Force Base.
Republican Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois, who sponsored the provision, said he first became aware of this issue after helping the family of Petty Officer Logan Palmer, an Illinois native who died aboard the USS John S. McCain when it collided with a cargo ship last August.
There have been a series of recent incidents involving US military aircraft and warships, and an uptick in noncombat deaths over the past year.
In a separate June 2017 incident, seven sailors died aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald when it collided with a cargo ship off the east coast of Japan.
CNN’s Barbara Starr, Jeremy Herb and Zachary Cohen contributed to this report.