I’ve consistently donated money to just one charity for the past decade, the Fisher House Foundation, which builds a “home away from home” for families of U.S. service members receiving long-term care at military hospitals and Veterans Administration centers. This is the perfect salve for cash-strapped next of kin who want to post a bedside vigil for a loved one who returned from Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere will grievous wounds. There are Fisher Houses across the country, from the Naval Hospital in San Diego to Walter Reed Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
The foundation doesn’t spend much on executive compensation or organizational expenses, unlike other nonprofits that have been excoriated for excessive overhead.(CharityWatch.org analyzes these very boring things to help dumbasses like me make informed decisions about charitable giving; click here for the top-rated charities for veterans and the military). Chairman, who like “Breaking Bad’s” Heisenberg doesn’t part with his hard-embezzled money easily, gives Fisher House two thumbs-up, if you’re wondering.
Fisher House came through again Wednesday, promising to pay the families of fallen American servicemembers $100,000 death gratuities that were suspended with the government shutdown. The fact that a nonprofit came to the rescue of the U.S. government is a perfect reflection of the buffoonery, laziness and absence of creative thinking that infect massive organizations such as the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. I heap the blame not on Congress (for once), but on bureaucrats with big brains, comfortable salaries and small hearts who claimed that a Sept. 30 law passed by Congress to ensure military members get paid was worded in such a way that excluded family members.
You know, family members of fallen warriors who have drifted off the front pages, people such as 1LT Jennifer Moreno, SGT Patrick Hawkins, SGT Joseph Peters and PFC Cody Patterson, who were killed in an IED attack on Oct. 6 in Zhari, Afghanistan. While policy analysts with Ph.Ds complained about being furloughed (although they’re guaranteed back pay when the shutdown ends) and cubicle dwellers picketed Capitol Hill, these soldiers’ next-of-kin faced the daunting prospect of 1) burying their loved one and 2) paying for hefty funeral expenses on their own.
Apparently, the law that ensures military members will get paid had a good-faith drafting error that gave DOD lawyers enough wiggle room to interpret the law to the exact letter, instead of the law’s intent. A day of outrage later, Fisher House bailed out a mortified Uncle Sam.
The infuriating thing is that this boils down to simple communication. If just one guy stops behaving like an automaton for a moment, exhibits a modicum of humanity, and just makes an extra phone call, we could avoid good-faith mistakes that snowball into a national embarrassment.
What are the chances of that happening these days?