from los angeles times: Eric Miller’s career as an Army Ranger wasn’t ended by a battlefield wound, but his DNA.
Lurking in his genes was a mutation that made him vulnerable to uncontrolled tumor growth. After suffering back pain during a tour in Afghanistan, he underwent three surgeries to remove tumors from his brain and spine that left him with numbness throughout the left side of his body.
So began his journey into a dreaded scenario of the genetic age.
Because he was born with the mutation, the Army argued it bore no responsibility for his illness and medically discharged him in 2005 without the disability benefits or health insurance he needed to fight his disease.
“The Army didn’t give me anything,” said Miller, 28, a seven-year veteran who is training to join the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
While genetic discrimination is banned in most cases throughout the country, it is alive and well in the U.S. military.
For more than 20 years, the armed forces have held a policy that specifically denies disability benefits to servicemen and women with congenital or hereditary conditions. The practice would be illegal in almost any other workplace.
There is one exception, instituted in 1999, that grants benefits to personnel who have served eight years.
“You could be in the military and be a six-pack-a-day smoker, and if you come down with emphysema, ‘That’s OK. We’ve got you covered,’ ” said Kathy Hudson, director of the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University.”But if you happen to have a disease where there is an identified genetic contribution, you are screwed.”
Representatives from the Pentagon declined multiple requests to discuss the policy.