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Why Can't His Hearing Disabled Son Serve in the Military?

Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I am writing to ask for help pushing the military to reconsider how it views disabilities. I think the military should look at true limitations versus simply setting a standard and sticking to it.

My son is a senior in high school and is looking at options. I have always encouraged my children to do their public service and stressed to them that a military path should be high on their list of options.

I served seven and a half years and am a 100 percent disabled veteran. Even though my son sees my struggles, he still wants to serve and earn the benefits of a veteran, such as college tuition assistance.

My son wears hearing aids. He is not deaf, but he does need these assistive devices. He has been told that assistive devices disqualify him for military service.

My problem is that eye glasses are assistive devices, and people with vision problems can still serve with glasses. Why are hearing aids treated differently?

I would rather have someone in the foxhole with me who couldn't hear that well than someone who couldn't see very well without their assistive devices.

There has to be a waiver to allow people like my son a chance to serve, but I can't get past the recruiter who says the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) disqualified him. Any thoughts or guidance you can provide would be great.

-- Concerned Veteran and Father

Dear Concerned Father,

I appreciate your seven-plus years of service and your sacrifice. I think it's great that you encourage your children to serve our country too.

Only about one percent of the population serve at any given time. Because of that, I think it's even more admirable that your son wants to serve his country.

I'm glad you wrote this letter because, if nothing else, it will help bring this issue to light as Military.com has many readers.

From your report, it sounds like your son was PDQ'd (Permanently Disqualified) at the MEPs station. I know that was really hard for your son to hear. I can't speak for the Defense Department but, while it will accept people with certain conditions, the point is not to put the service member in jeopardy of aggravating their current condition.

I can picture your son being on a range or even in combat, and loud noises perhaps increasing his hearing loss. However, I'm not a medical doctor and I'm not associated with the Defense Department.

You can read some of the regulations online by doing a search for DoD Directive 6130.3 and 6130.4, both of which discuss physical standards for enlistment.

However, I read that U.S. Rep. Mark Takano of California introduced a bill to the House Armed Services Committee in 2014 to allow deaf and hearing-impaired individuals the opportunity to serve in the Air Force. Maybe you can reach out to him or one of his co-sponsors to find out what happened with this bill: John Garamendi of California, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, and Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts.

Thanks so much for writing me. Please keep in touch if you glean any more information, and I will let you know as I hear from others providing information.

-- Ms. Vicki

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Contributor

Ms. Vicki is a native of Dallas, has been the Dear Abby for the military community since her column began in 2005. A licensed therapist and licensed clinical social worker, Ms. Vicki holds a Master of Science in social work and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology.

Ms. Vicki appears regularly on Military.com and in the Fort Campbell Courier. Her column has also appeared in the Washington (D.C.) Times and in the Heidelberg (Germany) Post Herald. She has been featured on CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC.

Looking for advice about your military life? Email Ms. Vicki here. Find Ms. Vicki on Facebook here.  Find Ms. Vicki on Twitter here.

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