Attempt to Oust All HIV-Infected Military Personnel Fails in House

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An effort by an Orange County congressman to oust from the military all service members who are HIV-positive or are restricted by a chronic illness was defeated Wednesday when the House approved a milder version that would allow discharge but would not require it.

The requirement drafted by Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove) as part of the annual defense authorization bill could have led to the immediate discharge of any member of the military whose assignment is limited by HIV, asthma, heart disease, cancer or diabetes, among other ailments.

But an offense mounted by Rep. Jane Harman (D-Marina del Rey) succeeded in heading off Dornan’s plan--passed by the House Armed Services Committee last month--putting an end to a provision that could have removed about 3,600 service members.


“People who are sick and serve well should be able to get well,” Harman said before her amendment carried, 227 to 192.

The Dornan provision was approved by the Armed Services Committee last month in what was later described by some as a harried, uninformed vote.

Current military policy dictates that service members restricted by a medical condition be classified as “non-worldwide assignable,” meaning they are limited to serving stateside. Pentagon officials have testified that the existing policy works fine.

But Dornan argued that the policy places an unfair burden on healthier service members and is foolish in an era of dwindling defense budgets.