Army approves more benefits for Fort Hood victims

The U.S. Army on Thursday approved additional benefits for soldiers who were wounded in the 2009 Fort Hood mass shooting.

The service also announced it would award the Purple Heart to a soldier who was killed and another who was wounded in an attack by a radicalized Muslim in 2009 at a recruiting center in Little Rock, Ark.

“In addition to the Purple Heart medal, there are certain other benefits for which Soldiers receiving the Purple Heart are traditionally eligible,” Army Secretary John McHugh wrote in an April 14 memo.  “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.”

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McHugh, a former GOP member of the House Armed Services Committee, ordered benefits that include payment of hostile-fire pay for Purple Heart recipients “killed, injured or wounded” in the attacks and combat-related special compensation for retired troops disabled in the shootings. 

The secretary made the announcement less than a week after the Army honored more than 40 victims of the attacks with the Purple Heart and the Defense Medal of Freedom, its civilian equivalent, after years of lobbying by lawmakers.

The Defense Department initially classified the Fort Hood shooting, in which Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others, as workplace violence rather than an act of terrorism. 

He was convicted in 2013 of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder.

But a provision in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act expanded eligibility for the Purple Heart by broadening what should be considered an attack by a "foreign terrorist organization."

Capitol Hill lawmakers applauded the news that victims from both incidents would receive extra benefits.

“Last week’s ceremony was an important step toward honoring the heroes of that day, and 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,” Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTrump's immigration push faces Capitol Hill buzzsaw The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Restrictive state abortion laws ignite fiery 2020 debate Sinema, Gallagher fastest lawmakers in charity race MORE (R-Texas) said in a statement.

“Just when we thought we had crossed the finish line we learned the race wasn’t over,” said Rep. Roger WilliamsJohn (Roger) Roger WilliamsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems aim to end anti-Semitism controversy with vote today CPAC attendees say Biden poses greatest threat to Trump Don’t look for House GOP to defy Trump on border wall MORE (R-Texas). “Today I am happy to announce that after more than five years of work these brave men and women and their families will finally receive the support that they so rightfully deserve.”

Arkansas Sens. John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanTrump's pursuit of infrastructure deal hits GOP roadblock Democrats, making a difference is better than making a point GOP senators read Pence riot act before shutdown votes MORE and Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonGOP senator: Supreme Court abortion cases were 'wrongly decided as a constitutional matter' Senate confirms controversial 9th Circuit pick without blue slips Cotton: US could win war with Iran in 'two strikes' MORE, and Rep. French Hill, all Republicans, also praised McHugh’s decision to recognize the two victims of the Little Rock attack, in which Army Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula was wounded and Pvt. William Andrew was killed.

The shooter, Abdulhakim Muhammad, was known as Carlos Bledsoe before converting to Islam. He told investigators he wanted to kill as many Army personnel as he could "because of what they had done to Muslims in the past."

“The Army’s decision to award the Purple Heart to the victims of the Little Rock Recruiting Center attack is long overdue,” said Cotton, an Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I am pleased these two young men will finally get the recognition they deserve.”