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Genes used against GI

August 22, 2007

Re "U.S. military practices genetic discrimination in denying benefits," Aug. 18

At a time when military recruitment now includes 12% with criminal records -- disposition to violence has long been suspected of having a genetic component -- it seems ignorant in the extreme that our military would refuse to grant this man medical benefits.

Eric Miller did not ask to be born an American. Nor did he ask for the DNA that gave him the fighting strength it took to be an Army Ranger. Nonmilitary law protects civilians from genetic discrimination. Add hypocrisy to ignorance. Miller deserves at least as much as other veterans.

Constance McKee

Woodside, Calif.

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The government covers repeated heart treatments for a vice president who ran away from military service and multiple exams for a commander in chief who did the same. Yet it refuses to cover the medical treatments of men who served honorably and well but who have congenital conditions that surfaced during their military service. Don't our military leaders see the irony, indeed the screaming injustice, in such differences?

Sharon Murphy

Gays Mills, Wis.

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Someday the U.S. will join other advanced nations and enact universal health insurance so that veterans like Miller and the rest of his fellow citizens will no longer have to worry about obtaining medical care for genetic conditions that none of us has any control over.

As for disability benefits, the military has a responsibility to make sure inductees are in good mental and physical health when they join. However, merely having a genetic alteration, which every person carries in one form or another, does not constitute preexisting physical or mental illness and thus should not disqualify one from military service or disability benefits were symptoms later to develop.

Harold N. Bass MD

Porter Ranch

The writer is a medical geneticist with Kaiser Permanente and a clinical professor at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine.

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