Lawmaker wants trial program for deaf to serve in Air Force
People otherwise fit for duty would be given chance
Aug. 2, 2014
By Kristin Davis – Staff writer
A lawmaker who advocates for the deaf is calling for a trial program that would allow a small number of hearing impaired to serve in the Air Force.
Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., introduced in the House on Wednesday legislation that would give 15 to 20 people who are deaf or hard of hearing but otherwise fit for military duty the chance to serve their country.
The Defense Department excludes from service those who are deaf, use a hearing aid or have a cochlear implant. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a DoD spokesman, said that is for good reason.
“In all areas of military life, but especially in combat, an individual’s life and the lives of his or her comrades may depend on what individuals can hear. Situations could occur where hearing impairment would not only result in injury or loss of life, but could jeopardize a unit’s mission,” he said in an email. “Individuals who are physically disqualified for military duty can and do become civilian members of the team. The work they perform for the Department and our country is valuable and rewarding but without the rigors of military duty.”
The proposed legislation is a companion to a bill introduced in the Senate in December by Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who has noted the military allows service members who acquire a disability while serving their country to remain on active duty.