Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Heroic House That Helps Heroes

Some are calling it a publicity stunt. Others call it an act of angelic charity. It may be a bit of both.

Fisher House has offered to cover some of the death benefits to family members of military personnel who died in the line of duty.

The House and Senate passed one funding bill almost unanimously. It was the one funding bill to cover military service members' pay, allowances and benefits. However, it somehow overlooked some of the family benefits normally payed in the case of death. These benefits are part of a service member's salary. Yet an alleged loophole supposedly allows Obama to suspend these payments for the time being.

The existence of this loophole is a subject of debate that has yet to be determined.

With the recent deaths of 5 Soldiers in Afghanistan, it came to light that their families may be denied some of the benefits. Some of these include flying a family member to see the body arrive back in the states. Others include funeral costs, assignment of a Casualty Assistance Officer, life insurance, and other benefits. While the monetary payments will eventually come, just being delayed, there is but one chance to meet the remains.

Upon hearing  the news, Fisher House has announced it will take care of some of these benefits until congress and Obama can pass a workable budget that won't increase the national debt.

"The Fisher House generously agreed to offer the families an advance grant until the government can make reimbursements at an appropriate time. The Fisher House will also cover flights, hotels and other incidentals for family members. 

 Ken Fisher, Chairman & CEO of Fisher House Foundation stated,“After losing a loved one in service to our nation, these families should not have to endure more pain as the result of political squabbling. For the last 20 years, Fisher House has been there to support our military families in their time of greatest need. We are now stepping up to honor the sacrifices that have been made, and to repay a debt that is truly unpayable [sic].”

Mr. Fisher is correct, the country owes military veterans a debt that they will never be able to repay. Most veterans would never ask for repayment. However, they do ask for certain benefits promised. They include the GI Bill, medical care for service related injuries and conditions, and certain things done to take care of the families of the fallen. Most Soldiers do not think of themselves first. However, they do place the needs of their families very high on their priorities.

In the past,  Fisher House has accumulated "frequent flier miles" donated through several participating airlines. One time, they used these "miles" to bring a Nigerian family to their hero-warrior's funeral in the US. In helping the families of the recent fallen, they are just doing what they do, taking care of the families of our nation's heroes.

This is not the first time Fisher House has made the news. A few years ago, a famous actor took a tour of one of the Fisher House facilities. At the end of the tour, according to legend, he asked how much it cost to build one of the facilities. Upon hearing the answer, according to the myth, he pulled out his checkbook and wrote a check for the quoted cost.

The story is not entirely true. Denzel Washington was highly impressed with all the Fisher House did for the families of wounded military personnel while the warriors recovered from devastating injuries. The donation actually came a few months after the tour. The amount was not disclosed. It remains one of the largest single donations the Fisher House Foundation has ever received. But it was not as extravagant as the urban legend professes.   

For those who advocate the government running social programs such as charities, look at Fisher's website. 95% of donations go directly to the programs they run. 3% goes to administrative costs and salaries. 2% goes to setting up fundraising activities to generate more donations. Compare that to any government program. The average government programs takes approximately 80% for administrative and bureaucratic costs, leaving only 20 cents on the tax dollar allocated for the actual charitable work. With the Fisher House Foundation, you get 95 cents worth of bang for your buck. Two cents of that buck is used to acquire other bangs later on.  That is highly efficient and commendable.

So, should Fisher House get some positive media and promotion spotlight time out of there generous offer, it's a win. This isn't an athletic shoe company promoting some kids soccer team in order to make up for using child labor in Cambodia to manufacture its shoes. In fact, it is quite the opposite.

What does Fisher House do? They do a lot for wounded warriors and their families. Their largest program is to provide a sort of home-like atmosphere for families.

For example, San Antonio Military Medical Center (SAMMC), which used to be known as Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) at Fort Sam Houston, TX, has a Fisher House nearby. SAMMC has some of the best facilities for helping treat Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) as well as therapy and recovery facilities for amputees.

If a Soldier is blown to bits by an IED in Afghanistan, but survives, he will likely end up at SAMMC. There he will undergo psychological counseling. He will get treatment for the TBI sustained in the explosion. He will also get physical therapy and other recovery programs associated with his new prosthetic limbs. Some SAMMC "graduates" have recovered well enough to return to military service.

But the road to that recover is a long one. While still on duty and undergoing the process, the family usually would like to be near. Costs of relocating for that duration can be steep, especially if the relocation will be less than a year. Fisher House provides a place for the families to stay at low to no cost.

In the civilian world, Fisher House could best be compared to the Ronald McDonald House, who provides housing and facilities for families of severely ill children.

The foundation can always use donations. If you are so inclined, please visit their site and give this great foundation some consideration. Every penny helps and goes to a noble cause:  Helping Families of Heroes who sacrificed so much and deserve our help in return.