Are persons with disabilities allowed in the US military?

Lets say a soldier loses an eye, arm, or leg in combat. Are they automatically discharged or will the military find another position for them?

I’m curious because I’ve seen pictures of the Civil War where some officers had missing limbs and still served.

Depends on the extent of their injuries. I have personally met soldiers with one eye or a prosthetic leg. I have never heard of a soldier being allowed to stay while missing an arm, though. Not saying it could never happen, just that I haven’t seen it.

Before The Fact
After The Fact

They will receive a medical evaluation board. If the injury does not prevent the soldier from doing his or her job, and the soldier can stay in. Several guys like this still performing combat operations.

My experience is out of date by a good many years, but I* think* the same general rules still apply. People with disabilities are generally not accepted for enlistment. I was nearly turned down for being allergic to bee stings, had to lie a bit to get in. The services want near-perfect health going in. However a disability acquired while enlisted is not necessarily an automatic out. If a person is capable of performing an administrative or support job, they may be allowed to continue to serve. I knew one man, a senior NCO who had suffered a broken back in combat in Viet Nam; he had recovered his mobility but was considered unfit for combat and was on permanent light duty. When I knew him he was teaching at a navy “A” school. More recently, I saw on TV an Iraq vet in a wheelchair still in uniform, working as a spokesman/PR guy for the army.

I always wondered about reassignments/retraining. Like say… you’re an infantryman, and you lose a leg. There’s no reason that with an appropriate prosthetic, that you couldn’t drive or crew any number of vehicles.

I imagine losing arms/hands is more crippling in terms of what’s available than a leg though.

Reclassification is an option that can be considered by the medical review board.

It all depends on how badly they need them. I had an uncle who was blind in one eye, but was a crack auto mechanic. They drafted him and had him repairing tanks in Florida. WWII.

There was this LtCdr in the Coast Guard I knew who had a hair up his ass.

If you can still do your job you can remain in the military, even if you can’t you could possibly reclass to a different MOS. The Army base I was at had all branches and there was an active duty Navy guy I would see every morning that ran around the PT field with a prosthetic leg, I also some people that were obviously injured by IED’s that stayed in, not sure what the full extent of their injuries were though.

You understand that for every soldier in combat there are, or were, 3 or 4 more behind the lines. I’m thinking it’s actually more now, but I don’t know. Lot’s off jobs with no heavy lifting.

I know someone that made a whole career in the U.S. Air Force despite surviving a severe head trauma as a child that caused him to become either mentally retarded or right on the borderline. He is my ex-wife’s uncle and I never thought that sort of thing was possible until I met him. He enlisted and managed to stay in at a very low level for his whole career until he retired. He was limited to serving as a file clerk and doing simple administrative tasks for over 20+ years and never got promoted past the lowest ranks.

It couldn’t have been a secret to anyone in command. A simple conversation with him tells you quickly that is extremely mentally deficient in almost all ways but he is jovial and can follow simple orders.

I can’t tell you how that happened because it was always my understanding that the general military rule was to either get promoted or get out if you don’t make it on time but he stayed in somehow. He took his military retirement and became a pizza deliveryman in Florida.

Forrest Gump jokes aside (and he is not even at that level), does anyone know how a seriously mentally deficient person can be allowed enlist at all let alone to stay in the military for an entire career? He first enlisted in the 70’s if that matters.

Nothing against you, but this story is highly unlikely. Did you see his discharge papers or retirement certificate or anything?

CMC on the tender was missing an eye. For Hallowe’en he took off the patch he usually wore and popped in a glass eye.

I know of two EOD technicians that lost legs at the knee, and one EOD officer that lost his thumb–all three to IED techs. The two amputees have prosthetic and have been at their old job for the past five years, to include deployments. The Officer continued his work too, and just returned from his last deployment.

Like Bear_Nenno says, a MEB will take place. They will evaluate the injuries, the ability to recover, the critical nature (and manning) of the MOS/AFSC, and any accomodating features.

The amputees stayed in. But I lost a solid guy to an MEB because he’d had to have two discs in his back fused together from one simple truck accident.

Come in with a disability–no. Retain you with one–depends.

Back during the Vietnam War there was a program called Project 100,000 where they let people enlist in all branches of the service who had physical and mental capabilities which normally would prevent their enlistment. The program ended in 1971 From what I read, the program was a failure as most were discharged before their enlistment and very few were allowed to reenlist. One exception were those how came in grossly overweight.

Also the services lowered standards quite a bit during Vietnam. I was in USAF basic training in 1972 and I still remember one guy who was dumb is a box of rocks. He got through basic training, but just barely and this was the USAF basic training which wasn’t very difficult back then.

After winning his Medal of Honor, but losing his right hand and forearm, Leroy Petry stayed on active duty, deployed to Afghanistan, and then re-enlisted for another three years.

A number of years ago, there was a local fooforaw about the family of some kid who objected to him being recruited into the army. I don’t remember exactly what the paper said, but he had some kind of mental problem that wasn’t immediately obvious. He was over 18, so the family had to appeal to the higher echelons of the service to get his enlistment canceled. The recruiters had no problem with him helping fill their quota.

A while later, someone with a learning disability (and I’m virtually certain it was the same kid) came to work where I was working. His problem was that he wouldn’t pay much attention to whoever was showing him how to do a particular task, but would just jump to his own idea of how to do it. After that, if you tried to tell him to do it differently, he’d just get upset with you and run away. I expect he’d have lasted maybe 3 weeks in basic training.

That’s more for officers, from what I understand.

It may be unlikely but it is a simple fact. I knew him personally and quite closely for 10 years while my ex-wife and I were married. I still see him when he flies back to New England for some family gatherings because he has a son here who I visited with on Christmas Day. He literally fell off the back of a vegetable cart that his older brothers were peddling in Boston when he was a young child and got run over by a car. It caused permanent, extensive brain damage but he lived.

He had a long career in the in the Air Force as a file clerk in New Hampshire and retired when his service was up. He can do basic tasks like drive, follow orders and dress himself. However, he can’t maintain a household like a normal adult would. He was given a house by his father and it mostly had to be demolished and reconstructed when he wanted to sell it and move to Florida to do pizza delivery. The plumbing beneath the bathrooms broke a long time ago so his fix was to simply disconnect it and let all of the sewage pour straight into the ground underneath the house. Contractors were able to save some of the structure but the damage was extensive and expensive.

Like I said before, I have no idea how that worked because I didn’t believe it was possible but it is or at least was at one time. The military strongly encourages and pays for ongoing education. He even got a college degree from a 5th rate school out of pity despite the extremely poor quality of his work on things like essays (he showed them to me). I am not making fun of him. It is the simple reality. I am glad the Air Force found some use for him and gave him opportunities to do the best that he could. I just don’t understand how he got that because it doesn’t seem possible today.