The Defense Department is expanding its travel policy to Dover Air Force base to accommodate more families of fallen troops.
Service secretaries may now authorize government-paid travel so families can attend the dignified transfer of their loved ones who die overseas, but not in combat. Robert Wilkie, serving as the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, signed a memo May 25 that granted this authority.
Previously, the government paid for travel only for troops killed in the theater of combat operations.
Travel may be granted to a service member's primary next of kin plus two additional family members, according to the memo.
There are two requirements:
1. The service member died overseas.
2. The Armed Forces Medical Examiner at Dover has called for a forensic pathology investigation.
"This policy change aligns with our enduring commitment to honor our service members and their families, especially in times of crisis and sacrifice," said Deborah Skillman, director of casualty and mortuary affairs, office of the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Military Community and Family Policy.
In the solemn dignified transfer, a fallen servicemember is honorably carried from the aircraft to ground transportation to the Port Mortuary.
"The department greatly values the work our national military and veterans service organizations do every day to help share important information that impacts our military community,” Silkman said. "We appreciate the collaboration on these outreach efforts."
The decision follows news reports DoD did fund travel for family members of sailors who were killed aboard the destroyer John S. McCain after its collision off the coast of Singapore in August.
Theresa Palmer, mother of Interior Communications Electrician 2nd Class Logan Palmer, said the family's casualty assistance officer told them the military wouldn't pay for them to fly to Dover, because her son's death was not combat-related.
The casualty assistance officers worked with her family to arrange for the Fisher House, which has a foundation that supports military families during a time of medical crisis, to pay for the Palmers' to get to their son's homecoming, according to reports.