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2015-04-23

First Purple Hearts, now for Fort Hood victims?

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

United States Secretary of the Army John McHugh announced last week that he has ordered the United States Army to provide all possible benefits to victims of a 2009 attack at Fort Hood who recently received the Purple Heart medal. The Courier reported about the Army's decision in the Thursday, April 16, edition.
On Friday, April 10, 36 soldiers and surviving family members of the attack were awarded the Purple Hearts during a ceremony at Fort Hood in Killeen. This came after Congress expanded eligibility criteria for the Purple Heart, allowing the medal to be awarded to soldiers wounded or killed in incidents that had previously been determined ineligible.
On Nov. 5, 2009, 10 members of the military were killed in the shooting at Fort Hood's Soldier Readiness Processing Center. Another 26 soldiers were wounded by gunfire. The gunman, former Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Hasan, was convicted and sentenced to death in September 2013. He is incarcerated at Fort Leavenworth.
"In addition to the Purple Heart medal, there are certain other benefits for which soldiers receiving the Purple Heart are traditionally eligible," McHugh wrote in an April 14 memorandum. "I intend to ensure that the soldiers receiving the Purple Heart under the expanded criteria also receive all other related benefits for which they are eligible."
Among the benefits ordered by McHugh is payment of hostile fire pay for Purple Heart recipients "killed, injured, or wounded" in the attack, as well as combat-related special compensation for retired soldiers whose disability is attributed to an injury for which they were awarded the Purple Heart.
"After making the determination that the victims of the Fort Hood attack are now eligible for the Purple Heart, it seems only right and fair that these soldiers also receive the benefits it traditionally entails," McHugh said. "That's why I directed an expedited process to make certain that happens."
After learning about McHugh's order, US Senator John Cornyn said, "The recent ceremony was an important step toward honoring the heroes of that day. I am pleased the Army has moved swiftly to ensure the Fort Hood Purple Heart recipients will receive all the benefits for which they are eligible."
Last year, Cornyn led the successful push in Congress to update federal law making victims of the Fort Hood terrorist attack eligible for the Purple Heart - a cause he has championed since 2009.
McHugh's announcement about the benefits came just a day after Cornyn, along with Senator Ted Cruz, and US Texas Congressmen John Carter and Roger William, had sent a letter to McHugh, urging him to ensure all Fort Hood Purple Heart victims receive full benefits.