Rep. Ruben Gallego pushes for VA to strip benefits from service members and veterans who stormed the Capitol

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Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., speaks as the House reconvenes to debate the objection to confirm the Electoral College vote from Arizona, after protesters stormed into the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.
  • Rep. Ruben Gallego wants service members who participated in the Capitol riot to lose benefits.

  • He said their actions were "not representative of the large population of American veterans."

  • Several people who have been charged in the riot have a military background.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona, a Marine Corps veteran, last week called on Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough to withdraw benefits from active-duty service members, veterans, or military retirees who participated in the deadly Capitol riot on January 6.

"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," he wrote in a letter. "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."

Such benefits include access to disability compensation, healthcare options, and vocational opportunities.

Video: Impeachment managers reveal new Capitol riot footage

Gallego added: "This situation is unjust. Any veteran or servicemember who stormed the Capitol on January 6th forfeited their moral entitlement to privileged benefits at the expense of the people of the United States."

NPR reported in late January that nearly 20% of the more than 140 people who had been charged in the riot by then had a military background. Federal prosecutors have since charged more than 300 people in the attack, with more expected to face federal charges.

Gallego, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, asked McDonough to work with Attorney General Merrick Garland to identify the riot participants, citing a part of the US Code that covers benefits for veterans and their dependents as a rationale to withdraw benefits.

Gallego also sent letters to Garland, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.

Gallego asked Austin and Mayorkas to "quickly identify, investigate, and prosecute any active servicemember or retiree that participated in the attack," adding that "insurrectionists should not enjoy benefits they no longer deserve."

During the insurrection, Gallego, who served in the Iraq War, sheltered several journalists in his office.

The insurrection, the most significant breach of the Capitol since 1814, left five people dead, including the Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick.

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