On Thursday Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), sent letters to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the Department of Justice and the Department of Veterans Affairs, calling it “unjust” that veterans who entered the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, enjoy veterans benefits despite taking part in what he insisted was an insurrection. Gallego called on Austin and Attorney General Merrick Garland to inform the VA to cut off benefits to any servicemembers or veterans convicted in relation to the Capitol incident.
Gallego, a U.S. Marine Corps infantryman and the chairman of the newly formed House Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations, wrote to VA Secretary Denis McDonough, “As you are aware, a violent insurrection took place at the Capitol on January 6th. Multiple people were killed, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, a veteran of the New Jersey Air National Guard. The Capitol suffered significant physical damage and the insurrectionists nearly succeeded in preventing Congress from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election.”
Gallego noted some reports that suggest as much as 20 percent of “the insurrectionists” were either veterans or military retirees.
“The behavior of these individuals is not representative of the large population of American veterans, the vast majority of whom served honorably and are appalled by the thought of insurrection in the country they served,” Gallego wrote. “Yet many of the veterans and servicemembers who attacked their own Government actively and enthusiastically enjoy special benefits given to them by their fellow citizens.”
Gallego noted benefits for veterans include disability compensation, educational benefits, cheaper healthcare options, vocational opportunities and access to veteran-affiliated state programs intended to reward their service.
“This situation is injust,” Gallego wrote. “Any veteran or servicemember who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6th forfeited their moral entitlement to privileged benefits at the expense of the people of the United States.”
Gallego wrote to McDonough to work with Garland to determine which veterans participated in the Jan. 6 incident and “use your discretion as Secretary of Veterans Affairs to immediately withdraw those veterans benefits,” adding, “I am confident you can find ‘satisfactory’ evidence as required to do so under 38 U.S.C. § 6104.”
38 U.S.C. § 6104 is the portion of the U.S. code that allows the U.S. to strip benefits to those “guilty of mutiny, treason, sabotage, or rendering assistance to an enemy of the United States or of its allies.”
Gallego further called on McDonough and Austin to work together, along with Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, to identify any active duty servicemembers or retirees prosecuted under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), to deny them benefits, in line with 38 U.S.C. § 6105.
38 U.S. Code § 6105 is the portion of the U.S. code that describes the ability to strip military benefits, including the right to burial in a national cemetery, for servicemembers who engage in subversive activities.
Gallego concluded his letters to Austin, McDonough and Garland, stating, “Insurrectionists should not enjoy benefits they no longer deserve.”
On Jan. 6, thousands of demonstrators gathered outside the capitol as President Donald Trump rallied with supporters to raise objections to a vote to certify the 2020 U.S. election results for Biden. A group of demonstrators entered the Capitol building either by forcing their way in or entering through doors opened for them. Some demonstrators inside and outside the building also clashed with police and others entered congressional offices while Congress was forced to postpone the election certification vote.
Six Capitol Police officers were suspended and 35 officers are being investigated for their actions on Jan. 6. One of the individuals suspended had reportedly posed for selfies with some of the demonstrators who entered the building and another reportedly donned a red “Make America Great Again” hat and guided people around the federal property.
Crowds have pushed onto Capitol Hill to take part in past demonstrations.
There has been a continuous effort to describe the Jan. 6 incident as an act of insurrection. FBI Director Christopher Wray called the incident “domestic terrorism” and Democrat lawmakers took up efforts in January and February to impeach former President Donald Trump on an allegation he incited an insurrection. The Democrat-controlled House impeached Trump but the split U.S. Senate failed to reach the 67-vote threshold to convict Trump of the impeachment charge.
Similar to Gallego’s call to strip benefits from servicemembers and veterans charged in Capitol incident, Democrat lawmakers have also introduced a bill to strip Trump of presidential benefits and bar any federal funds going to buildings bearing his name, such as a potential Trump presidential library or public schools named after him.