PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, by the year 2020, nearly one million people will be living with Parkinson’s disease (PD). PD is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects a specific area of the brain, progressively debilitating motor skills. The foundation also states approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed each year. A diagnosis, especially here in Hawaii, is not a rapid assessment. Due to the very low numbers of neurologists who can actually diagnosis a patient with PD, it could take months. This is something known by one of the U.S. Navy’s very own.
In 2013, six months after retiring from 29 years of service in the Navy, Boster was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Even though he had received this diagnosis he still wanted to work. During his job interviews he was forthcoming about his condition.
“The response [I received] was refreshing and a uniform ‘Thank you for your openness, but it’s not a consideration in our hiring decision’.”
On July 26, 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law. The ADA prohibits discrimination in job application procedures, hiring, advancement and termination and provides equal access to worker’s compensation, job training, and other privileges of employment.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) sites it as the most comprehensive disability rights legislation in history. Numerous precursors to the ADA that led to its institution should be brought to the forefront.
June 25, 1938, the Wagner-O’Day Act was passed. This act required all federal agencies to purchase specified products made by people who were blind. In 1971, the Javits-Wagner O’Day Act becomes more encompassing to include services as well as supplies and incorporate people with other significant disabilities. This program is now known as AbilityOne.
Supplies used on an everyday basis within the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of the Navy can be seen supporting AbilityOne. These items are purchased from companies like Skilcraft and Lighthouse for the Blind and can be found in offices, food service, and used for cleaning and janitorial duties.
As World War II drew to an end, and with the return of disabled service members, there was an interest in how people with disabilities would be able to contribute to the workplace.
On August 11, 1945, President Harry S. Truman approved a Congressional resolution declaring the first week in October “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” This declaration was put in place to assist those with disabilities to find jobs and for business to present job opportunities.
By 1962, the word “physically” was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities.
In 1988, Congress extended the weeklong observance to the entire month of October and changed the name to “National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).” Today, NDEAM is annually observed in the month of October as a part of a national campaign to raise awareness about disability employment issues. It is also an opportunity to recognize America’s workers with disabilities who have provided various contributions throughout the year.
Boster, now a DoD employee for United States Pacific Command (PACOM), was named this year’s Secretary of Defense Outstanding DoD Civilian Employees with Disabilities Award winner.
The award, spanning 38 years, which also has a category for service members, honors individuals with disabilities who have supported the DoD’s mission, operations, core values, and have made significant contributions in and out of their respective organizations.
Boster was chosen from 25 applicant packages. Highlights mentioned in his package refer to his work with PACOM as a strategy writer and his work as board president of the Hawaii Parkinson Association.
When asked about his thoughts of winning the award Boster replied, “One, I am extremely grateful and humble. Two, it allows me to raise the visibility of Parkinson’s and highlight that out of nearly one million people with Parkinson’s 120,000 are veterans. Three, it goes to show we are productive workers that can excel and be leaders in our field, in spite of our disabilities.”
At a NDEAM observance on Thursday, Oct. 18, aboard Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH), Boster was recognized and commended on his work with the DoD and Hawaii Parkinson Association. The event also featured three speakers: Navy and Army disabled veteran Thomas Lee who works as the Military Affairs Liaison with the State of Hawaii, Ann Yoshida, Training and Innovation Director at AccesSurf Hawaii, and Brandi Matsumoto, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii Human Resource Office.
The Navy continues to support the country in the continual push for awareness and practice of employing those with disabilities and ensuring their fair treatment. It stands by this year’s NDEAM theme, “America’s Workforce: Empowering All.”
“We need to be more open-minded and understand the talents everyone brings [to the workforce],” said JBPHH Command Master Chief Allen Keller.
For more news from Navy Public Affairs Support Element, visit www.navy.mil/local/npasehq/.