USS Iowa Families To Get Expedited Benefits
NORFOLK, Va. (AP) _ The federal government will speed up the handling of benefit claims for the families of 47 sailors who died in an explosion aboard the battleship USS Iowa, officials said Wednesday.
″The Department of Veterans Affairs and DOD have expedited the claims from these families and also are providing assistance to them to help them apply for the benefits,″ said Jim Holley, a staffer with the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
All 47 crew members who were killed April 19 when an explosion tore through a turret during a training exercise carried the maximum of $50,000 in life insurance available under a military policy administered by the Veterans Department. Those checks should be mailed within a month, said John Brizzi, counsel to the House Veterans Affairs subcommittee on compensation, pensions and insurance.
It usually takes 30 to 60 days to process monthly death benefit claims after the forms are filed by families, he said.
″I would expect benefits might be payable as early as June or July,″ Brizzi said, explaining that that estimate takes into account the time it takes the family to file for the claim in addition to the processing. ″They’ll receive a lot of assistance here because this is an abnormal case.″
Holley said benefit claims also were expedited when large numbers of service personnel were killed in an airplane crash over Newfoundland, in the bombing of Marine headquarters in Lebanon and in the Iraqi missile attack on the USS Stark.
Aside from the insurance payment and monthly benefit checks, the families will receive six months’ salary from the Department of Defense. The military also will pay funeral costs.
The families will receive educational benefits and health coverage as well, Brizzi said.
A private fund-raising drive sponsored by Shearson Lehman Hutton’s Norfolk office has collected more than $35,000, said Gary Compton, a company vice president. He said the money will be distributed to the families beginning this week.