Prompt response deserved

Robert Lee Smith spent 30 years of his life in service to his community as a volunteer fire fighter. Now his family has spent three years waiting for the federal government to honor his sacrifice.

Smith, a volunteer with the West Shelby Fire Department, died from a fatal heart attack while fighting a brushfire in 2004. Through a national program known as Hometown Heroes, his family should be eligible for a minimum of $250,000 in benefits.

Unfortunately, as if we need another example of bureaucracy exposing families to hardship, the government keeps giving them the run around. More paperwork is needed. There isn&8217;t enough evidence the heart attack was directly related to his work. The government needs a copy of his medical history.

Programs like Hometown Heroes are boasted about so Americans feel like the contributions of those who serve are valued. Yet this program has proven to only cause more pain.

More than 250 requests have been submitted since the program&8217;s inception, but, to date, only seven families have received awards. That leaves 48 rejected applications, and 198 cases of families still waiting for word.

The Justice Department says the process involves complex issues. Just like any other benefit, it&8217;s conceivable that people would try and cheat the system, but honest families who have lost loved ones should not go through the anguish of submitting document after document and waiting year after year to prove their family members died protecting others from a similar fate.

We already know these men and women are risking their lives. Why are we so slow to recognize their bravery when they are so quick to save our lives