The military pays $500,000 to the next of kin of every soldier killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, but the sudden injection of cash during a time of grief often throws survivors off balance. Young military spouses can struggle with money management and long-lost friends and relatives sometimes appear asking for handouts. Some military kin have quickly ended up destitute.
Many who have lost loved ones feel deeply offended when the government money first arrives. “My casualty assistance officer handed me the check and I wanted to tear it up and throw it right back at him,” a Navy widow told the New York Times. “It was almost like accepting the money meant truly acknowledging that the death had happened.” (Read more Iraq war stories.)