The man accused of killing 13 people and wounding 32 others during the 2009 shooting rampage at the Fort Hood Army Base in Texas is still collecting his Army salary.
Since the tragic shootings, Major Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist with ties to Al Qaida, has received $278,000 from the federal government, the Department of Defense confirmed to NBC 5, an NBC affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Hasan, who the Federal Bureau of Investigations reported was in communication with Al Qaida before the shooting, will face trial by a military jury on 13 counts of premeditated murder later this year. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
Since he was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan at the time of the shooting, Hasan was considered a combat employee. Because of that classification, his salary cannot be suspended until he is proven guilty, under the Military Code of Justice.
If Hasan had been a civilian employee at the time, however, the Army could have suspended his pay after just seven days.
While Hasan continues to earn a sizable salary, many of the surviving victims – burdened by expensive hospital bills – are struggling to make ends meet.
“There have been times when my wife and I cannot afford groceries,” retired Army Spc. Logan Burnett, who was shot three times by Hasan in Fort Hood’s Army Deployment Center, told NBC 5. “We cannot afford gas in our car.” The fact that Hasan is still earning a paycheck “makes me sick to my stomach,” he said.
Victims say they should receive the same pay and medical benefits provided to those wounded in combat. The Army, however, declines to label this as a terrorist attack, at least until the trial has concluded and is, instead, treating it as a violence in the workplace incident.
Some lawmakers, including Rep. Tom Rooney, R-FL, who previously served as a Fort Hood prosecutor, and Rep. Frank Wolf, R-VA, are urging the Pentagon to reconsider the classification.
Rooney signed a bipartisan letter asking Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to reclassify the attack as combat related. “What happened here is not a case of workplace violence. What happened here was an attack on our military by a terrorist element specifically targeting our military, which just so happened to be in the United States of America,” Rooney said in a statement.
He added that the situation has “resulted in an embarrassing lack of care and treatment for the victims and their families.”
Wolf introduced an amendment on Tuesday that would make the shooting victims eligible for combat-related pay and Purple Heart benefits that they’ve been denied.
“You take three rounds and lose five good friends and watch seven other people get killed in front of you,” Logan Burnett, the retired Army specialist, said. “Do you have another term that we can classify that as?”