Senators call on Congress to consider measures to help the disabled

While the overwhelming majority of the dialogue on Capitol Hill has recently been focused on immigration, international conflicts and other pressing issues related to the nation's economy, it has expanded over the last few weeks to include discussions about the very important issue of disability.

On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of senators along with various veterans' rights groups renewed their call for Congress to take steps to adopt the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. For those unfamiliar with this treaty, it is essentially modeled after the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act in that it mandates that all disabled people be afforded equality under the law.

141 nations have already taken steps to ratify the treaty, but the U.S. has yet to do so. Here, the delay stems primarily from apprehension that its passage would serve to introduce onerous new regulations on businesses.

Among those leading the push to dispel these concerns and adopt the treaty are former Senator Majority Leader Bob Dole, and Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Tom Harkin (D-IA), all three of whom want to see the U.S. reclaim its reputation for both protecting and empowering the disabled.

It is worth noting that Harkin recently introduced an amendment in the most recent draft of the defense appropriations bill that would greatly expand the employment opportunities available to disabled people by enabling them to enlist in the military in support and non-combat roles.

According to Harkin, the idea is feasible given that the Department of Defense already provides "reasonable accommodations", as mandated by federal law, for its disabled civilian employees and the current military policy toward disability.

"The military now permits individuals to remain on active duty if they acquire a disability while serving their country," he said. "However, for a person with a similar disability who wants to enlist in the military and be a part of our defense establishment, they would not allow that, even if they needed the same reasonable accommodations."

It will be interesting to see if Harkin's amendment or the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities can gain the necessary traction among an already deeply divided Congress.

Stay tuned for updates ...

Those people diagnosed with serious medical conditions or who have suffered debilitating injuries that have made it impossible to work despite their best efforts should consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more their options for securing disability benefits.

Source: The Army Times, "Sen. Harkin: Recruit the disabled for non-combat jobs," Leo Shane, July 23, 2014