Military Connection: Disabled Recruits? By Debbie Gregory

Disabled enlisteesWhile it would seem that years of fighting a war could result in a desensitized society, in actual fact, recent conflicts have had the opposite effect. The long-standing “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has been repealed, and the role of women in the military is ever-expanding, inching ever closer to combat. Additionally, service members who were wounded to the point of being disabled are not forced out of uniform, but instead, are given non-combat positions so that they can still serve their country. Currently, there is a push to permit disabled men and women, who were not disabled due to military service, to enlist to serve their country.

The charge is being led by popular senator and disabled Veteran Bob Dole. Dole served in the U.S. Army during WWII, and was awarded the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. Dole was severely wounded by German machine gun fire, leaving him permanently disabled.

Dole heads a group of senators from both parties who are pushing for the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The agreement, already in place in 141 other countries, is modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act, and requires countries to provide disabled citizens equality under the law.

Concerns over whether adopting the treaty would lead to extreme regulations on U.S. employers has stalled its momentum in the Senate. But the senators who support the adoption of the treaty don’t believe that its implementation would have any ill-effects on American businesses. They believe that the treaty will do much to re-establish the U.S. as a leader in providing employment opportunities and protections for its disabled citizens.

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin even included an amendment in a Senate draft of the annual defense appropriations bill that would require the military to research the prospect of permitting disabled men and women to enlist in the military in non-combat roles.

The DOD currently abides by a federal law that requires “reasonable accommodations” be made for disabled civilian employees, but no such exceptions are currently in place for enlistees into the military.

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Military Connection: Disabled Recruits?  By Debbie Gregory