Hartzler Introduces Bill to Ensure Gold Star Families Receive Full Benefits
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (MO-04) introduced the “Restoration for the Families of the Fallen Act,” which would ensure families who failed to receive the full life insurance benefit of their fallen servicemember retroactively receive that benefit. The bill would apply to the families of veterans who died from 2006-2018. This bill was introduced as a follow-up to legislation Congresswoman Hartzler introduced last Congress that was passed into law, which eliminated a confusing policy that allowed servicemembers to mistakenly opt out of their family receiving the full $400,000 life insurance benefit in the case of the servicemember’s death.
“I learned about the shortfall in procedure after one of my constituents, Teresa Stark, lost her son in Afghanistan,” Hartzler said. “When I received the news that her son, young Christopher Stark had been killed in action, it was a call I will never forget.”
“In the years following that phone call,” Hartzler continued, “I got to know Christopher’s brave mom, Teresa. I learned that when Christopher deployed to Afghanistan, he opted for what he believed was an additional $200,000 of life insurance, but instead, mistakenly opted out of the full $400,000 of coverage that should have been available to his family. Sadly, we learned that Christopher’s case was not unusual – other families had been shortchanged too.”
As a result, Congresswoman Hartzler authored a provision in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to make sure service members who are deployed to a combat zone automatically receive the full life insurance coverage benefit of $400,000. The “Restoration for the Families of the Fallen Act” will ensure those killed in action following the enactment of the 2007 NDAA (which allowed the Department of Defense to begin reimbursing servicemembers’ SGLI premiums), retroactively receive the full $400,000 SGLI coverage.
“I hope that Congress will band together to pass this common-sense bill, to ensure that families who were shortchanged when their servicemember died receive what they deserve,” Hartzler said. “Christopher’s mother worked so hard alongside me to make sure that other families wouldn’t have to go through what she did, when she knew that Christopher’s true wishes weren’t being carried out. Now we want to compensate those who were affected by the oversight before my bill became law.”
Christopher Stark was a 2007 graduate of Monett High School where he participated in JROTC, football, basketball and baseball. He and his mother moved to Nevada, MO, and he enlisted in the United States Army in August 2008 and served as part of the 705th Unit with the 63rd Explosive Ordinance Disposal Battalion 20th Support Command until he was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) in COP Tangi, Afghanistan on February 28, 2011.
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