Spc. Vanessa Guillen died ‘in the line of duty’ at Fort Hood and her family is entitled to benefits, U.S. Army says

Offerings sit in front of a mural of slain Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen painted on a wall in the south side of Fort Worth, Texas on July 11, 2020. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Offerings sit in front of a mural of slain Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen painted on a wall in the south side of Fort Worth, Texas on July 11, 2020. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

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The family of a Texas soldier whose on-base killing sparked calls in Congress for changes in the way the military handles sexual abuse and harassment is entitled to benefits, including compensation, because her death happened “in the line of duty,” U.S. Army officials announced.

Spc. Vanessa Guillén, 20, was conducting her assigned duties at Fort Hood when a fellow soldier killed her in April, according to results of a report the Army announced Tuesday.

Guillén was listed as missing for six weeks before her remains were found in July. Her death led to a hashtag #IAMVANESSAGUILLEN, used by military sexual assault survivors to denounce their experiences on social media, after Guillén’s family said the soldier who killed Guillén had sexually harassed her.

U.S. Army officials said in July that they had found no evidence that soldier had sexually harassed Guillén and that she did not formally file a report on the harassment. Officials said they had evidence that Guillén did face other kinds of harassment by other people at the Texas base.

Officials determine whether someone died on duty for all soldier deaths, the Army said in a statement. The determination in the Guillén slaying gives her family access to money to help pay expenses, a life insurance payout and a funeral with full military honors.

Army officials said they will continue to keep Guillén’s family informed, including on policy revisions “to ensure Army culture continues to put people first and honors Vanessa’s life.”

“We appreciate all the information we can get and hope we learn everything about Vanessa’s murder so this never happens again,” said Natalie Khawam, who represents the Guillén family.

Separate investigations into Guillén’s death continue, including a criminal probe and an independent review of into the command’s response when Guillén disappeared.

According to the Army’s report, Guillén “died by homicide” at 11 a.m. on April 22. Her remains were found July 1, when police confronted Spc. Aaron Robinson, who killed himself. A civilian is accused of helping Robinson dispose of Guillén’s body and has pleaded not guilty to destruction of evidence. She is awaiting trial.

The “I Am Vanessa Guillen Act,” introduced in Congress in September, would remove decisions on whether to prosecute members of the military for sexual assault or sexual harassment from the military chain of command.

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