Pols Push to Boost Soldiers' Death Benefits

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So far, 1,511 members of the U.S. military have died in Iraq (search) and Afghanistan. The government currently pays a death benefit of $12,000.

That's double what was paid a year ago, but a bipartisan push in Congress is seeking to increase death benefits to $100,000. Several states are also moving to increase death benefits for their National Guard (search) and Reserve forces.

Lawmakers working on the increase say while they can't measure the cost of freedom, the payment for a battlefield death isn't nearly enough.

"You can't value a life. But we know that we can do a lot better than $12,000 for the families of those who have given their lives in our defense," said Sen. Joe Lieberman (search), D-Conn.

Lieberman wants to boost the death benefit to $100,000 and make it retroactive to all U.S. personnel killed in Afghanistan (search) and Iraq. He's joined by Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions.

"We need to have this kind of benefit. It goes to a family, regardless of rank. Anyone who gives their life for their country will receive this benefit," Sessions said.

Boosting military life-insurance policies is another priority for some lawmakers, who want to raise the payout from $250,000 to $400,000. Lawmakers want the United States to pay the premiums on nearly half the policy. Momentum is building in Congress.

"I'm very confident that we'll have strong support for it. I am particularly hopeful it will be in the Defense Department budget, and I think that will really help us move it forward," Sessions said.

Lieberman and Sessions said they hope President Bush endorses these ideas in his State of the Union address. Both predict near-unanimous support even if he doesn't.

"It's not going to matter whether a senator supported the war in Iraq or not. Everybody's going to come together to make sure that we treat the families of our servicepeople with minimal decency," Lieberman said.

Eleven states are also moving to boost death and life-insurance benefits for members of their National Guard — weekend warriors pressed into perilous duty.

"Yes, we need to provide them the ammunition and the armor. But, my God, for their families that are devastated when there's a loss, when there's a death, we've got to do a lot better as a nation," said New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (search).

Richardson said he also wants a check-off box that would allow state-tax refund recipients to divert cash to provide emergency assistance to surviving relatives who are in the military.

"Just simply a fund to help our families that are devastated by this war when they lose a Guardsman or when a Guardsman is hurt," he said.

New Mexico has check-off boxes on tax forms to save trees and wildlife and to provide drug treatment and maintain military cemeteries. He said the New Mexico Legislature is more than willing to add another check-off box to aid the families of fallen Guardsmen.

Lieberman told FOX News that he supports the idea of a federal check-off box to aid all military families. He said if Americans have been willing to use a part of their tax refund to help pay for presidential elections, they will be more than willing to do it for troops in the field.

Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Major Garrett.