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American Forces Press Service

Policy Changes Help Wounded Troops Stay in Service

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

BETHESDA, Md., Dec. 9, 2004 - Fundamental changes have taken place in the Defense Department's disability policy, a top Pentagon official told attendees at the 17th DoD Disability Forum here Dec. 7.

John M. Molino, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for equal opportunity, cited a December 2003 visit by President Bush to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, when the president noted advancements in medical treatment and recovery allow many more wounded servicemembers to resume their careers. "Today, if wounded servicemembers want to remain in uniform and can do the job, the military tries to help them stay," Molino recalled the president telling the patients.

"This statement, this attitude," Molino continued, "has implications for everything from accessibility policy on military installations to the long- standing expectation that every active duty servicemember must be able to deploy to combat anywhere in the world. We're re-examining our basic assumptions, and basic changes are on the way."

The department is committed to doing all it can to bring those changes about, Molino told the group. "We're moving aggressively to help servicemembers remain on active duty if they wish to do so," he said. "This is the news in DoD disability policy today."

Noting that with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld wholeheartedly supporting keeping capable servicemembers in the DoD fold, Molino said defense personnel officials also are looking for ways to improve opportunities for veterans with disabilities in DoD's civilian work force.

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