Congressmen Tim Griffin (AR-02), a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, and Frank Wolf (VA-10), Chairman of the Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee, issued the following statements after introducing the Stop Pay for Violent Offenders Act (H.R. 2777):
"Four years ago this November, a lone gunman opened fire at Fort Hood and killed more than a dozen people, including a pregnant mother," Griffin said. "The fact that the sole suspect in this attack, Nidal Hasan, a Major in the U.S. Army, has continued to draw his Army salary -- costing taxpayers more than $278,000 -- is outrageous. That is why Rep. Frank Wolf and I have introduced legislation that will suspend pay for members of the military accused of committing serious crimes."
"This bill would correct a huge oversight that has allowed military personnel charged with a serious crime to continue to receive their pay while awaiting trial," Wolf said. "Does anybody really think it's right that Nidal Hasan has collected more than $200,000 in taxpayer dollars since being charged in the Fort Hood shootings? Does anyone think military personnel charged with sexual assault -- a growing problem in the military -- should continue to receive taxpayer dollars while awaiting trial, especially if other federal employees, like FBI agents, DEA agents and U.S. Marshals can have their pay suspended under current law?"
Rep. Tom Rooney (FL-17), a former member of the U.S. Army JAG Corps who served as a prosecutor at Ft. Hood, issued the following statement as a cosponsor of the bill:
"How can we justify the fact that the victims of the Ft. Hood attack and their families are fighting to get the benefits they deserve, while taxpayers have paid Nidal Hassan almost $300,000 to sit in a jail cell? This is unconscionable. Our bill is simple -- if you're awaiting trial for a serious crime, you can't collect a salary from the American taxpayer."
Under current law, federal civilian employees may have their pay suspended if there is reasonable cause to believe the employee has committed a crime for which a sentence of imprisonment may be imposed. However, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), no such provision applies to members of the military.
H.R. 2777 would modify Article 13 of the UCMJ to allow for suspension of pay and allowances of a member of the Armed Forces in confinement pending trial for rape, sexual assault, or a capital offense, effectively ending the use of taxpayer dollars to continue to pay Hasan's salary. The legislation also contains important provisions to provide additional compensation to victims of these crimes and would require that, in the event of conviction, the withheld salary funds be distributed to the victims of these crimes.
H.R. 2777 also provides protections for those falsely accused, including the ability to apply for a waiver from the Secretary of the military branch concerned, and would provide the full payment of the withheld salary if acquitted.