|Congressmen Demand Obama Admin. Call Ft. Hood Attack 'Terrorism'|
|By NED BERKOWITZ||Feb 13, 2013, 4:11 PM|
In the wake of an ABC News story detailing claims by victims of the Fort Hood shooting that they have been neglected by the military and 'betrayed' by President Obama, the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee has sent a letter to his fellow members of Congress demanding that the Obama administration classify the attack as a terrorist act and provide full benefits to the victims and their families.
"It is time for the administration to recognize the Fort Hood shooting for what it is—an act of terrorism," wrote Rep. Michael McCaul, R.-Texas, in a letter cosigned by Rep. Frank Wolf, R.-Virginia. "To date, the Department of Defense and the Army classify this attack [as] 'workplace violence,' despite mountains of evidence [that] clearly proves the Ft. Hood shooting was an act of terror."
The letter recommends that members of Congress view the ABC News report, "which highlights the broken promises made to the victims of that attack by the Obama Administration. The video contains never-seen-before footage of the terrorist attack and moving interviews with several of the survivors."
"As this news piece makes clear," wrote McCaul and Wolf, "the result of this inexcusable [workplace violence] classification … is that victims and their families have not received the same recognition or medical and financial benefits as those wounded or killed in war."
In a report that aired on "World News with Diane Sawyer" and "Nightline," former police sergeant Kimberly Munley, who helped stop the Ft. Hood shooting, said that President Obama broke the promise he made to her that the victims would be well taken care of.
"Betrayed is a good word," said Munley, who sat next to First Lady Michelle Obama at the 2010 State of the Union address. "Not to the least little bit have the victims been taken care of … In fact, they've been neglected."
There was no comment from the White House about Munley's allegations.
Thirteen people were killed, including a pregnant soldier, and 32 others shot in the Nov. 5, 2009 rampage by the accused shooter, Major Nidal Hasan, at the Army base in Killeen, Texas. Hasan now awaits a military trial on charges of premeditated murder and attempted murder.
Despite extensive evidence that Hasan was in communication with al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki prior to the attack, the military has denied the victims a Purple Heart and is treating the incident as "workplace violence" instead of "combat related" or terrorism.
Al-Awlaki has since been killed in a U.S. drone attack in Yemen, in what was termed a major victory in the U.S. efforts against al Qaeda.
Munley and dozens of other victims have now filed a lawsuit against the military alleging the "workplace violence" designation means the Fort Hood victims are receiving lower priority access to medical care as veterans, and a loss of financial benefits available to those who injuries are classified as "combat related."
Some of the victims "had to find civilian doctors to get proper medical treatment" and the military has not assigned liaison officers to help them coordinate their recovery, said the group's lawyer, Reed Rubinstein.
"There's a substantial number of very serious, crippling cases of post-traumatic stress disorder exacerbated, frankly, by what the Army and the Defense Department did in this case," said Rubinstein. "We have a couple of cases in which the soldiers' command accused the soldiers of malingering, and would say things to them that Fort Hood really wasn't so bad, it wasn't combat."
Some of the victims in the lawsuit believe the Army Secretary and others are purposely ignoring their cases out of political correctness.
"These guys play stupid every time they're asked a question about it, they pretend like they have no clue," said Shawn Manning, who was shot six times that day at Fort Hood. Two of the bullets remain in his leg and spine, he said.
"It was no different than an insurgent in Iraq or Afghanistan trying to kill us," said Manning, who was twice deployed to Iraq and had to retire from the military because of his injuries.
An Army review board initially classified Manning's injuries as "combat related," but that finding was later overruled by higher-ups in the Army.
Manning says the "workplace violence" designation has cost him almost $70,000 in benefits that would have been available if his injuries were classified as "combat related."
"Basically, they're treating us like I was downtown and I got hit by a car," he told ABC News.
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said the Department of Defense is "committed to the highest care of those in our military family."
"Survivors of the incident at Fort Hood are eligible for the same medical benefits as all servicemembers," said Little. "The Department of Defense is also committed to the integrity of the ongoing court martial proceedings of Major Nidal Hasan and for that reason will not at this time further characterize the incident."
Secretary of the Army John McHugh told ABC News he was unaware of any specific complaints from the Fort Hood victims, even though he is a named defendant in the lawsuit filed last November which specifically details the plight of many of them.
"If a soldier feels ignored, then we need to know about it on a case by case basis," McHugh told ABC News. "It is not our intent to have two levels of care for people who are wounded by whatever means in uniform."
On Tuesday, Rep. Wolf took to the floor of the House to urge members to watch the ABC News report, and said Ft. Hood was "clearly a terrorist attack."
"While the Obama administration has designated the attack that killed all those people as workplace violence, the survivors cannot get assistance," said Wolf. "Secretary of Defense Panetta, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Dempsey, Attorney General Holder and the President of the United States have failed, failed the people and continue to fail the people that were wounded and killed, and their families at Fort Hood."