Shutdown Could Delay Death Benefits to South Florida Family of Air Force Member Presumed Dead in Colombia Crash

Martin Gonzales is presumed dead after a plane crash in northern Colombia on Saturday

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Martin Gonzales, a member of the U.S. Air Force working under the control of U.S. Southern Command in Doral, is presumed dead after a mission in Latin America — and his family soon could be impacted when it comes to his death benefits. NBC 6's Willard Shepard reports. (Published Tuesday, Oct 8, 2013)

    A member of the U.S. Air Force working under the control of U.S. Southern Command in Doral is presumed dead after a mission in Latin America — and his family soon could be impacted when it comes to his death benefits.

    The political impasse in Washington that has shut down part of the federal government is placing military families who have suffered the ultimate tragedy in a position where for now they don't get their death benefits.

    Martin Gonzales is presumed dead after a plane crash in northern Colombia on Saturday. On his wife's Facebook page Tuesday were messages of support and condolences from friends and coworkers.

    U.S. Southern Command says that an aircraft went down in Colombia near the border with Panama when it was on a flight aimed at ultimately stopping the flow of narcotics into the United States, but it has not officially released Gonzales’ name yet. Three Americans and a Panamanian Air-Naval Service member were killed in the crash, while two Americans who survived were rescued by the Colombian military and taken to a hospital in Bogota, according to U.S. Southern Command.

    Workers at Spanish Lake Elementary, the school in Miami-Dade where sources say his wife Michelle teaches, said they too are grieving.

    But due to the government shutdown, Gonzales’ family soon may not receive all the death benefits that are extended by the Department of Defense when a family member performing military service dies.

    On Tuesday the Department of Defense told NBC 6 that due to the shutdown the following are on hold for military families: the $100,000 death gratuity benefit that is usually sent automatically; other burial benefits; and travel funds to reach a loved one’s body once it is flown to the U.S.

    "Shouldn't we as a body, Republican, Democrat, no matter who we are – shouldn't we be embarrassed about this? Shouldn't we be ashamed?” Arizona Sen. John McCain said in Washington. “What do the American people think when they see that death benefit for those who served and sacrificed in the most honorable way are not even – their families are not even eligible for death benefits. I'm ashamed. I'm embarrassed. All of us should be."

    On Tuesday afternoon the school board said the school is doing everything it can to support Michelle Gonzales, her two kids and the rest of the family.

    Southcom said that life insurance for the families of service members will go through without delay.

    But the Gonzales family, once the official notification from the military comes through, falls into a group that is entitled to benefits and monies but won’t be able to receive them until the trouble in Washington is over – even though the family has made the ultimate sacrifice.

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