TRENTON – As Memorial Day approaches, state lawmakers are working to increase the death benefit paid to the families of active members of the New Jersey National Guard. On Monday, the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee released two measures sponsored by Assemblymen Neil Cohen, Patrick Diegnan and Vincent Prieto to augment benefits for surviving family members.
The first measure (A-1575) — sponsored by Assemblymen Cohen (D-Union) and Diegnan (D-Middlesex) — would grant a $250,000 military death benefit for an active member of the New Jersey Army National Guard or Air National Guard.
“No amount of financial compensation or assistance can begin to replace the loss of a loved one,” said Cohen (D-Union). “New Jersey has an obligation to recognize the loss of a member of the National Guard with all of the dignity we can muster by extending a helping hand to the loved ones they leave behind.”
“We must always remember the New Jersey National Guard members who have lost their lives while protecting our country and way of life,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “By supporting the families of these fallen heroes we are recognizing the huge sacrifice made by all New Jersey Guard service members.”
The bill would mandate that the death benefits be payable to the surviving spouse or children of an active member of the Guard who is killed through enemy action, an accident or as a result of disease or illness contracted during active duty. Under the bill, the benefit also would be granted to surviving family members as ordered by the Governor.
The legislation also would mandate the death benefit to be payable to eligible survivors of active members of the New Jersey National Guard killed since September 11, 2001.
The second measure (A-1576) would authorize the State Treasurer to purchase group life insurance coverage for New Jersey National Guard members that would pay a death benefit of $250,000.
“These funds will provide immediate assistance to the loved ones of the men and women whose death was a direct result of their dedication and brave service to our country,” said Prieto (D-Hudson). “Survivor benefits would provide New Jersey service members with some peace of mind that their families will be cared for should they pay the ultimate sacrifice for their service.”
Under the second measure for casualty benefits, the state would be required to pay the premium for insurance coverage during a member’s period of service in the guard.
The bills – which were released by votes of 5 to 0 and 5 to 0 respectively—now head to the Assembly Speaker, who decides if and when to post them for floor votes.
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