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TUESDAY, JANUARY 18, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Proposed hike in military death benefits a good idea

A proposal in Washington to substantially increase military death benefits makes sense.

Unfortunately, the number of soldiers whose families would qualify to collect those proposed benefits grows daily as insurgents learn better and deadlier ways to attack our troops.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, a Mobile Republican, is leading the way to increase the money paid to survivors of military personnel killed in combat in Afghanistan or Iraq — or any future conflicts into which the United States might enter.

Included in the legislation Mr. Sessions plans to propose is a benefit that would provide $100,000 to survivors, along with other expanded benefits. Currently, the benefit is $12,420, a pittance when compared to the sacrifices made by soldiers and the loved ones they leave behind.

The measure would also increase the Servicemen's Group Life Insurance maximum benefit to $400,000 from $250,000. The military would also pay premium on the first $150,000 for soldiers in combat zones.

Of course, no financial compensation can ever reimburse a family that has lost a loved one. But the increased benefits could help those left behind lead some semblance of a better life.

Far too many military families suffer needlessly today because of insufficient insurance death benefits.

"We must be generous when a soldier gives his or her life in our nation's defense," Mr. Sessions said. "We can and should do much more for these heroes."

Considering the billions being spent in Iraq and Afghanistan to make lives better for citizens of those countries, the estimated cost of $460 million for the first year is small. The future price should drop as retroactive payments are included in Mr. Sessions' planned legislation.

The need is great and the price is small. We hope other members of Congress will see the sweeping benefits this legislation could bring.

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