Policy & Strategy

Obama declines meeting with Fort Hood victim

President Obama declined to meet last week with a victim of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting who says he should be eligible for federal combat benefits.

{mosads}Retired Staff Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford requested a chance to talk with Obama when the president visited the base for a memorial service honoring the victims of a second shooting spree that took place earlier this month. Lunsford wanted to lobby Obama on awarding combat benefits and Purple Hearts to people injured in the 2009 attack.

In a letter to White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, Lunsford complained that the Pentagon had classified the 2009 shooting — during which Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 13 people — as workplace violence rather than an act of terrorism. Hasan had been in contact with al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki, and victims have contended that they should be eligible for extra combat benefits.

“As you may know, the President and high-ranking members of the military promised me, my family and the other Fort Hood terror attack survivors that the federal government would ‘make them whole.’ After more than four and one-half years, however, the government has yet to make good on this promise,” Lunsford wrote in the letter, which was obtained by ABC News.

“We believe that if the President could hear, first-hand, our plight and our mistreatment at the hands of his bureaucracy, that he would take the steps needed to set things right. Therefore, we ask for ten minutes of his time.”

The White House ultimately rejected that request, and Obama did not meet with victims of the 2009 shooting during his visit to the base. In a response, McDonough said he would pass along Lunsford’s letter to the Pentagon.

“After receiving your letter yesterday, and consulting with the White House Counsel’s office, we forwarded your letter to the Departments of Justice and Defense, who are leading the government’s efforts to ensure the victims of the 2009 shooting receive the justice and benefits they deserve,” McDonough said in letter provided by Lunsford’s attorney to the network.

“Unfortunately, we were unable to meet your specific request for a meeting with the President yesterday.”

Republican lawmakers have proposed legislation that would declare the shooting took place in a combat zone and was a terrorist attack, and would mandate the awarding of Purple Hearts to soldiers killed or wounded.

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