by Max Brantley
Sen. Mark Pryor issues a statement on the Army's decision to provide a $100,000 death benefit and funeral expenses for the family of an Arkansas soldier, Capt. Samson Luke, who died at his home during National Guard service at Fort Chaffee. The Army had resisted payment because Luke was not on base when he died in 2010 of a heart condition.
Pryor legislation will prevent similar denials in the future. On the strength of that legislation, which didn't apply retroactively, a Luke family appeal of the earlier denial was granted.
U.S. Senator Mark Pryor today said it took perseverance and an act of Congress, but the Luke family will finally receive the death benefits to which they are entitled following the death of Captain Samson Luke nearly two years ago.
Pryor received verbal notification from the Secretary of the Army’s office that the Luke family’s appeal to the Army Board of Corrections for Military Records (ABCMR) has been granted. After the papers are processed, Miranda Luke and her four young children will receive death gratuity payment and burial expense reimbursement.
Her husband, Captain Samson Luke deployed for combat in Iraq twice and continued to serve as an Arkansas Army National Guardsman. During a required training weekend at Fort Chaffee, Luke was authorized to spend Saturday night with his family at home, twelve miles away from base, and return to the training site the next morning. He passed away that evening, January 10, 2010 from a heart condition. The Army determined that because Captain Luke passed away at home, not on base or at a local hotel, the family would not be eligible for the $100,000 death gratuity or funeral expense benefits they would otherwise receive.
“The Secretary of the Army is a busy man. I appreciate his time and effort to right this wrong and make sure our military families receive the benefits they are entitled,” Pryor said. “Likewise, it’s been an honor to team up with Miranda and ensure families facing similar situations are taken care of financially.”
Pryor inserted the “Luke provision” in a broad defense bill, which clearly states that a reservist’s family is entitled to death benefits should the service member die during an authorized stay at their home during inactive duty training. The legislation, awaiting the President’s signature, was not retroactive but helped pave the way for the appeal board’s positive result.
“This is a tough time of the year for many military spouses and families,” Pryor said. “I hope we can all do a little extra to brighten their holidays.”