From time to time – more often than we would like – we receive messages or letters such as the following, from someone who has been genuinely denied, discriminated against, or simply dismissed because of their stutter. In many cases the discrimination is unclear, but in some it is not. We share this with you not only as a plea to anyone who may be able to assist, but also to raise awareness that this occurs – often – and it is why we work so hard 365 days a year. If you or someone you know can assist this fellow NSA’er, please contact him today.
To Whom It May Concern,
Hello, my name is [redacted] and over the past several months I have been trying adamantly to get into the Air Force after being disqualified due to my stutter. By sending this, my hope is that the person(s) reading will help me in this endeavor by assisting me in my pursuit of becoming an Airman or by passing my story along to anyone they think could be of assistance. Below is a combination of the various letters I have sent out over the months pleading with everyone from the Surgeon General, to the Air Force live chat, to my recruiter, to the EEOC to assist me with becoming an Airman. The final few paragraphs document my last contact with the Air Force EEOC as of January 6, 2016.
I applied to the Air Force in May of 2015 and was left in limbo on whether I would be accepted or not because of my stutter. In October, I was given another chance to complete the RAT and at the conclusion I was completely disqualified from joining. I will be the first to admit that I did nowhere near as well on my test in October as on the one I took earlier. However, the odd thing about my disqualification in May was that I spoke to all three MEPS doctors and they felt my speech was not bad enough to warrant concern – and that I was a prime candidate. Moreover, during my visits with my recruiter prior to MEPS I was shown the Air Force’s job book. In this book, my recruiter showed me jobs that I could not get chosen for because a speech impediment was considered a disqualifying factor; he also showed me others where my speech would not be considered an issue.
In the months between May and October, and even now, I have done countless hours of research on how I could be a productive member if accepted into the Air Force. I have also read of successful Airmen who stutter, and met an Airman, in the form of a stand in liaison on the day I re-read for the RAT in October, who had one of them as his commander.
Also, over this span I tried contacting any department of the Air Force I thought could provide me with guidance but to no avail; until, in November when I brought the situation up with my father. He felt that the outcome was the result of discrimination due to my disability, because I excelled at every other aspect of MEPS – I passed every physical test and scored in the 85th percentile on the ASVAB – except for the RAT. He contacted his associates, who are retired service members from various branches, and told them about my situation. Every one of them felt I was qualified as well, and one even said that something could possibly be done since I never received documentation from the Air Force stating why I was not able to join.
I looked into the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and saw that a case could be made that I was discriminated against due to my disability. With this new found rallying cry, and counsel from retired members of various branches, I began to seek out the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and EEOC.
A day or so later, I found the number to the Air Force EEOC and called. I explained the situation and the person replied by saying that she felt there was no reason I should be unable to join given there are careers where my speech is not considered a disqualifying factor. Within the week, SMSgt Parker, from the same department, called me explaining that under a particular policy the military is allowed to discriminate against those with disabilities. After hearing this I was disappointed, but chose to continue to pursue entrance into the Air Force, so I called the Air Force EEOC a few days later and explained the situation to a gentleman. He explained to me that the policy SMSgt Parker cited was geared more so toward disqualifying factors for specific jobs – he used the example of not being color blind for certain jobs. Given this new found information, I asked if he could speak with anyone about helping me gain entrance into the Air Force.
He emailed two people in the legal department and one replied back to him saying that (as far as I gathered from what he said) discrimination due to a disability is not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 when it comes to joining the military. When he told me this, I made a point to let him know that my goal was never to file a suit, but rather to have someone see my name and the lengths that I had gone in pursuit of a career in the Air Force; and, as a result, provide me with an opportunity to prove I could be a great Airman.
I close by saying, I would not have pursued the Air Force all this time if this was not what I wanted to do. Like I have said in the many letters I have sent out over the months: If you could, I ask of you please pass my story along to anyone you think could help, because I want to take care of my family, get out of student loan debt, and complete my degree. The Air Force is the only way I can do it all; and if given the chance I will give my all to the Air Force.