While members of the Coast Guard continue to risk their lives on deployment during the government shutdown, the service says it will not be able to provide death benefits to their families should they be killed in the line of duty. Retirees and their families will also be affected due to a lack of funding as long as the shutdown drags on.
Families of US Coast Guard members killed in active service will not receive a one-time death benefit payment, as long as the partial government shutdown continues, according to Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride, a spokesperson for the service. Nor will retirees, McBride added, along with the next of kin of military retirees who were paying into an insurance plan, called the Survivor Benefit Plan.
McBride told CNN that while retirees and their next of kin are due to receive their benefits on February 1, they will not if the shutdown drags on. However, once the lapse in funding ends, all benefits are expected to be paid back.
“As the lapse in appropriation continues, more than 55,000 Coast Guard active duty, reserve, and civilian employees will not receive monthly pay and benefits. In addition, the federal funding hiatus may affect the retired pay for 50,000 Coast Guard annuitants,” McBride said in a statement.
It is rare for Coast Guard members to be killed in action, McBride added, but the fact remains that deployments continue despite the shutdown and the service would be unable to provide financial support for families should they need it. However, life insurance payments (known as SGLI) will continue because they are administered by an outside organization not subject to Coast Guard funding.
On January 15, more than 40,000 active-duty Coast Guard service members did not receive their paychecks – the first time in history that US service members were not paid during a lapse in government funding, according to Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl L. Schultz.
The Coast Guard also has a civilian workforce of 8,000, according to the commandant, who work alongside uniformed members and have also not been paid.
Ken Fisher, of the Fisher House program, announced Thursday that his foundation is giving $50,000 in support to Hope For The Warriors, a nonprofit veteran service organization, to help provide critical aid for Coast Guard families impacted by the government shutdown. The Fisher House offers assistance to families of troops in need.
“Since January 10, Hope For The Warriors has been providing gift cards to help Coast Guards members, who are currently working without pay, to help them pay for essentials,” according to the foundation.
Fisher has previously offered to pay Pentagon emergency military benefits to families of those killed in action when the Department of Defense has been furloughed. And with Coast Guardsmen working in the Pentagon and with the military around the world, the Fisher House Foundation is again offering to assist.
On Tuesday, Schultz said in a video message that was tweeted out that it is “unacceptable” that Coast Guard members have to rely on food pantries and donations during the partial government shutdown.
“We’re five plus weeks into the anxiety and stress of this government lapse and your non-pay,” Commandant Adm. Karl L. Schultz said in a video tweeted out as a message to service members. “You as members of the armed forces should not be expected to shoulder this burden.”
Schultz said he and the Coast Guard leadership team “stand in awe of your continued dedication to duty and resilience and that of your families.” He said he was also “heartened” by the “outpouring of support from local communities across the nation.”
“But ultimately, I find it unacceptable that Coast Guard men and women have to rely on food pantries and donations to get through day-to-day life as service members,” Schultz said.
This story has been updated.
CNN’s Zachary Cohen and Barbara Starr contributed reporting