Death Benefit Controversy an ‘Injustice:' Veterans Expert at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago

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Veterans pro bono legal clinic director who spent years as casualty notification officer urges an end to the government shutdown.

The death benefit controversy embroiled in the federal government shutdown is an “injustice” for veterans, said Thomas White, the clinical director of the Veterans Legal Support Center & Clinic at The John Marshall Law School.

According to an Oct. 10 Associated Press report, 'Obama signs bill to pay military death benefits,' the federal government’s shutdown has halted payments of the $100,000 so-called “death gratuity” that should be paid to the families of servicemembers who were killed while on active duty. That same story notes that the government has scrambled to find a hurried solution through charity and last-minute legislation, but according to White, the uncertainty for military families remains.

White, a retired Army JAG officer, has been the “first one on the door step,” shouldering the great responsibility of notifying families of the loss of their loved ones while serving. A former assistant professor at West Point, White served as a casualty notification officer and casualty assistance officer from 2010 to 2013 outside of New York City.

White said: “What’s happening to our nation’s heroes because of the government’s in-fighting is an injustice. Withholding death benefits to families mourning their great loss is a slap in the face.

“For a family who’s lost a servicemember, nothing will put their mind as ease," White said. "Nothing will make the pain go away. But it’s one less thing to worry about. Veterans and their families deserve to be honored for their sacrifice, not held up by bureaucratic red tape.”

Today, White works as director of a clinic that gives veterans legal assistance as they attempt to get benefits through the VA.

“Every day in our legal clinic, our students and lawyers deal with veterans struggling through the VA benefits claims process," White said. Each day the shutdown continues, the more damaging it will be for servicemembers and their families."

About The John Marshall Law School
The John Marshall Law School, founded in 1899, is an independent law school located in the heart of Chicago’s legal, financial and commercial districts. Through classes, clinics and special programs, students develop the strategic, analytical and transactional lawyering skills that are so valuable to employers. Its excellent curriculum, coupled with outstanding skills and experiential learning, help make John Marshall graduates practice-ready from day one. For practicing attorneys, John Marshall offers nine LLM degrees, more than any other law school in the Midwest. John Marshall is also a leader in providing distance education options in intellectual property, estate planning and employee benefits at the advanced graduate degree level. John Marshall offers six clinical experiences, including the nationally recognized Veterans Legal Support Center & Clinic and the Fair Housing Legal Clinic. U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Graduate Schools 2014 edition ranks John Marshall’s Lawyering Skills Program second and its Intellectual Property Law program 12th in the nation.

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Marilyn Thomas
The John Marshall Law School
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