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Lawmakers renew push to label Fort Hood terror, give victims benefits after Hasan sentence

 

On the heels of Nidal Hasan's death sentence for the Fort Hood massacre, Texas lawmakers plan to introduce new legislation that would formally label the 2009 attack as terrorism and make victims eligible for additional benefits. 

Lawmakers, as well as Fort Hood victims and their families, are renewing the years-long push now that Hasan has been found guilty in the deaths of 13 people and received his sentence. Among the arguments the government had made for not awarding Purple Hearts to victims was that it could negatively affect the trial. 

Families, though, have said that by treating the deadly November 2009 shooting as a terrorist attack, victims would get the same benefits as those killed or injured in combat. 

The new legislation, called the "Honoring the Fort Hood Heroes Act," would do that by labeling the attack as terrorism, giving victims the same status as that given to victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attack and making them eligible for the Purple Heart. 

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas; Rep. John Carter, R-Texas; and Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, plan to announce the legislation in Killeen, Texas. 

"Now that Hasan is convicted and has been sentenced, I promise to pursue every avenue to promote the cause of our soldiers and their families. As the federal representative for Fort Hood, I will not abandon this fight until it is won," Carter said in a statement. 

The administration has so far dealt with the shooting in the context of "workplace violence," a move that lawmakers have sharply challenged. 

"Hasan yelled 'Allahu Akbar' as he attacked Americans and claimed his rampage was in defense of the Taliban. His attack was an act of terrorism, not simply workplace violence, and we must continue to pursue justice for those wounded and the families of those killed by not only seeing this sentence carried out, but also by ensuring they receive the full benefits they deserve," Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement. 

Carter has previously authored similar legislation, along with his House colleagues. 

It's unclear whether lawmakers will be successful this time, but Fort Hood victims continue to speak out. 

Staff Sgt. Shawn Manning, who was shot six times during the attack, told Fox News that while he's "relieved" that a "portion" of the ordeal is over in the wake of Hasan's sentence, he and his fellow soldiers are still "fighting the government and the Army to call this an act of terrorism." 

"It's like a slap in the face," he said. 

Manning said changing the designation "makes a different in how they treat us medically, in how they apply our benefits."