Study: Survivors of servicemembers who commit suicide should get full benefits
Col. Wickliffe Cooper was by all accounts a bold and daring soldier, honored for gallantry at Shiloh, Corinth, Richmond and Chickamauga. He was also a renowned drunk.
After he ran out of whiskey at a Nebraska encampment in 1867, he shot himself in the head “in a fit of delirium tremens,” widowing his pregnant wife.
Suicide was then was viewed as tantamount to a crime. Widows and orphans were denied benefits. For 18 years, despite petitions to Congress, Sarah Cooper was denied her husband’s pension, until the War Department changed the colonel’s official cause of death to “by hand of person or persons unknown, while in the line of his duty as an officer of the army.”
Suicide, now seen as a tragedy usually resulting from mental illness or despair, no longer automatically prevents families from receiving all benefits. In fact, the military’s usual $400,000 life insurance policy, unlike most civilian life insurance, makes no exception for suicide and pays the benefit regardless of cause of death. But some — by those of “sound mind” — are still determined to be misconduct, not “in the line of duty.”
Read more at: http://www.stripes.com/1.442306