Before the government shutdown last week, Congress passed and Obama signed a bill allowing the military to be paid during the federal closure. However, the death benefit payments were not covered by that legislation.
Carney said the Pentagon told lawmakers before the shutdown that the death benefit payments were not covered by the bill and would be cut off during a shutdown. However, he repeatedly refused to say when the president was first told that death benefits would not be paid.
A senior administration official said Obama raised his concerns about the stoppage in payments Tuesday night during an evening walk around the White House grounds with his chief of staff, Denis McDonough. He directed McDonough to get the problem solved within 24 hours.
The Pentagon and the Office of Management and Budget developed a solution overnight allowing Fisher House to enter into a rush agreement essentially making the organization a government contractor that could deliver the benefits, the official said.
The administration and defense officials both insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the offer publicly by name.
Amid the controversy, Hagel made a rare trip Wednesday to Dover Air Force Base for the arrival of remains of four soldiers killed in Afghanistan. The remains of every U.S. military member killed overseas are flown to Dover for processing. Family members attend the arrival, but the secretary of defense usually does not.