The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation Monday written by Iowa Congressman Tom Latham that’s designed to help take care of the daughter of the first Iowa woman to die in combat in Iraq. Twenty-nine-year-old Naval reservist Jaime Jaenke of Iowa Falls was killed last year when a roadside bomb exploded.
Jaenke left written instructions that her parents were to get part of her death benefit to help raise her nine-year-old daughter Kayla. But Latham says the current law requires the money to go into a trust fund until the child is 18, and does nothing to help the grandparents raise the child. Latham’s legislation would change that.
He says the bill gives the clear intent of Congress that the grandparents should have access to the benefits when the soldier specifically designates that’s what they want to have happen. Latham, a Republican, says this is not the only case where there’s been a problem. The Department of Defense says that there are 143 similar cases around the country.
The bill passed the House unanimously. It now goes to the Senate, where Latham believes it will have the same type of support. Latham says,"It’s a common sense piece of legislation and I think everyone who understands the issue knows that it’s something that was just a technical oversight when the bill was written originally, that everyone assumed that those children would have access to those funds."
Latham says he hopes the bill will be passed in the Senate unanimously in the next day or two. He says the Jaenke family "has experienced countless financial hardships as a result of not having access to the death benefits for the purposes Jaime intended."