The Army will provide "all possible benefits" to victims of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting who recently were awarded the Purple Heart, the service announced Thursday.
"In addition to the Purple Heart medal, there are certain other benefits for which soldiers receiving the Purple Heart are traditionally eligible," McHugh wrote in an April 14 memorandum. "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."
Sgt. 1st Class Miguel Valdivia during his recovery from wounds after the Fort Hood shooting.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Sgt. 1st Class Miguel Valdivia
"After making the determination that the victims of the Fort Hood attack are now eligible for the Purple Heart, it seems only right and fair that these soldiers also receive the benefits it traditionally entails," McHugh said. "That's why I directed an expedited process to make certain that happens."
Thirteen people were killed and more than 30 wounded in the Nov. 5, 2009, attack by former Maj. Nidal Hasan.
Hasan was convicted in August 2013 of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder.
The victims of the shooting, the deadliest on a U.S. military installation, were awarded the Purple Heart April 10.
Purple Heart recipients Pfc. James Armstrong, left, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Christopher Royal hug as they look at pictures of co-workers who were killed in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, prior to a ceremony, Friday, April 10, 2015, at Fort Hood, Texas. Survivors and family members of those killed during the attack were awarded medals: a Purple Heart for military personnel and Defense of Freedom Medals for civilians. (AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Rodolfo Gonzalez, Pool)
Photo Credit: Rodolfo Gonzalez, AP
"The Purple Heart's strict eligibility criteria has prevented us from awarding it to victims of the horrific attack at Fort Hood," McHugh said in a statement at the time. "Now that Congress has changed the criteria, we believe here 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."
In Thursday's statement, McHugh said the Army is exploring additional benefits that may be available to these soldiers. He added that he has directed a review to determine "whether these soldiers may be entitled to any other benefits or compensation as a result of the award of the Purple Heart."
A report is due back to McHugh within 30 days.
In addition to the victims of the Fort Hood shooting, McHugh's actions also apply to a 2009 attack on a Little Rock, Arkansas, recruiting station. Pvt. William Long was killed and Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula was wounded in that attack, which happened when a man drove up to the recruiting station and opened fire on the soldiers, who were smoking cigarettes outside. The shooter, Abdulhakim Muhammad, was later convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Both Long and Ezeagwula will be awarded the Purple Heart following the expanded eligibility criteria mandated by Congress.
The Army is continuing to look into whether there are other soldiers previously determined to be ineligible for the Purple Heart who may now qualify under the expanded criteria.
Michelle Tan is the editor of Army Times and Air Force Times. She has covered the military for Military Times since 2005, and has embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Haiti, Gabon and the Horn of Africa.