The move was precipitated by a change in the law that broadened the strict eligibility rules for the medal, which is awarded to those wounded in combat. The shooting victims were previously deemed not eligible for the award because the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting by Hassan was ruled by the military to be a workplace violence incident.
Army Secretary John McHugh has approved awarding the Purple Heart and its civilian counterpart, the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom, according to an Army statement today.
"The Purple Heart's strict eligibility criteria had prevented us from awarding it to victims of the horrific attack at Fort Hood," McHugh explained in the statement.
"Now that Congress has changed the criteria, we believe there is sufficient reason to allow these men and women to be awarded and recognized with either the Purple Heart or, in the case of civilians, the Defense of Freedom medal. It's an appropriate recognition of their service and sacrifice," McHugh added.
A new Army review prompted by the new legislation determined there was enough evidence to back up that Hasan "was in communication with the foreign terrorist organization before the attack," and that his radicalization and subsequent acts could reasonably be considered to have been "inspired or motivated by the foreign terrorist organization," McHugh said.
The previous eligibility requirements needed a finding that Hasan had been acting at the direction of a foreign terrorist organization.
Reed Rubinstein, a lawyer who advocated on behalf of the families for years, welcomed the Army announcement, though he called it “long-overdue.”
“But it is the victims themselves who deserve most of the credit,” he added. “Promised by the Commander in Chief that they would be 'made whole' by the government, they refused to let political lies and bureaucratic abuse go unchallenged. They refused to be silent, spoke truth to power and won this important victory.”
The Army will now identify soldiers and civilians eligible for the awards and “contact them about presentation of the awards,” the Army said. Purple Heart recipients automatically qualify for combat-related special compensation upon retirement and are eligible for burial at Arlington National Cemetery.