By Blair Martin Gradel, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Public Affairs
This month marks the 70th national observance of Disability Employment Awareness around the world. With one in five Americans suffering from some sort of disability, the movement advocates the equal treatment and hiring of Americans with disabilities, specifically military veterans and wounded warriors. This year’s theme is “My disability is one part of who I am.”
In 1945, President Harry S. Truman announced October as the National Disability Employment Awareness (NDEA) month, after hundreds of wounded veterans returned home from WWII with injuries that limited their job prospects.
Senior Chief Thomas Howell serves as director for Navy Region Hawaii Safe Harbor, a program that assists wounded warriors and their family members with resources and non-medical care management.
Howell said he hopes the military community at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam will continue to encourage and support any policies and customs that would expand the opportunities for those with disabilities in our country.
“It is especially important during disability awareness month to keep our Wounded Warriors in mind,” said Howell. “They are transitioning from military service with an extra burden to bear while they learn their new normal and experience life with a new disability.”
According to the Department of Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI), as of 2008, there are 5.5 million disabled veterans, and as of 2014, 573,000 of them are unemployed.
The majority of the unemployed demographic range from ages 25 to 44. In fact, DEOMI research shows the entire homeless population is made up of 16 percent veterans, a number steadily increasing.
In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed that helped ensure disabled people were awarded the same opportunities in the work force and community life.
In 2010, President Barrack Obama signed the executive order 13548, asking for 100,000 individuals to be hired by the Department of Defense by 2015. The movement also encouraged the hiring of individuals with disabilities to include veterans (who have a more than 30 percent disability rating).
“Everybody has a part to play and a benefit to gain from increasing opportunities for meaningful employment for people with disabilities,” said Kathy Martinez, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy. “It’s about creating a continuum of inclusion.”