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WASHINGTON, D.C.-U.S. Senator Susan Collins today introduced the Honoring the Fort Hood Heroes Act, legislation to honor and support the victims of the Nov. 5, 2009 Fort Hood shooting. Sen. Collins was joined in introducing the bill by U.S. Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Jerry Moran (R-KS). A companion version of the Honoring the Fort Hood Heroes Act has been introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Reps. John R. Carter (R-TX 31) and Roger Williams (R-TX 25).

"This attack should rightly be categorized as an act of terrorism, and I believe strongly that service members wounded or killed at Fort Hood, or as a result of a terror attack irrespective of geographic location, are deserving of the same recognition and benefits as their deployed counterparts in combat zones," said Senator Susan Collins, who, when serving as the Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Committee, completed an investigation with then-Chairman Senator Joe Lieberman into the shootings

"The wheels of justice have turned too slowly for the victims of the terrorist attack at Fort Hood four years ago. We must direct our attention to the people who deserve it, and that is the victims and their families. As a nation, we have a sacred obligation to take care of them," Sen. Cornyn said.

"This is the additional piece of the actual justice due-beyond the conviction and sentencing of Nidal Hasan. The latter was really about 'one person.' However, the greater justice required in this case, in my opinion, is that all those victims-still having the possibility of 'life after Hasan'-do greatly deserve this final act of justice served to them," said Michele Vannote, sister of Fort Hood victim, Capt. John P. Gaffaney.

Background

Currently, the victims of the Fort Hood terrorist attack have not received the same awards and benefits as their deployed counterparts who are wounded or killed either through enemy action or a terrorist attack, because this attack took place on U.S. soil rather than in a designated combat zone. The Honoring the Fort Hood Heroes Act would correct this inequity and provide these benefits to the Fort Hood victims.

Bill Summary

Declarations of Policy: The bill declares that: (1) the attack constituted an act of terrorism, not merely workplace violence; (2) the U.S. Government has a fundamental duty to our troops to safeguard them against avoidable harm, and the Fort Hood attack could and should have been prevented; (3) the perpetrator, Nidal Hasan, had become radicalized while serving in the U.S. Army and was principally motivated to attack by an ideology of violent Islamist extremism; and (4) Hasan proved himself to be not just a terrorist, but also a traitor and an enemy of the U.S.

Military Awards: The bill would require the Secretary of the Army to award Purple Hearts to those Soldiers who were killed/wounded in the attack, and require the Secretary of Defense to award the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom (Purple Heart equivalent for civilians) to civilians who were killed/wounded.

Certain Benefits: The bill would provide certain benefits to the victims of the attack who were killed/wounded and their families (retroactively to the date of the attack), by deeming the killing/wounding to have occurred:

o For Soldiers, in a combat zone and at the hands of an enemy of the United States.

o For civilian DoD employees, by hostile action while serving alongside the Armed Forces during a contingency operation, and in a terrorist attack.

Benefits: Under this legislation, victims and families of victims of the Fort Hood terrorist attack would be made eligible for certain benefits that have been withheld from them, including:

• Combat-related special compensation;

• Maximum coverage under Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance;

• Tax breaks after death in combat zone or terrorist attack;

• Special pay for subjection to hostile fire or imminent danger;

• Combat-related injury rehabilitation pay; and

• Meals at military treatment facilities.