President Trump has nominated Daniel M. Gade to the last vacant slot on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Dr. Gade, who has a Master’s and Ph.D. in Public Administration and Public Policy, is a veteran of the second Iraq War, and lost his right leg in 2005 after
an explosion that occurred while he was carrying out a routine patrol.
After spending about a year in recovery, Dr. Gade went on to work for the administration of President George W. Bush on veterans’ issues, military policy, and disability policy. He has also served on the National Council on Disability, having been appointed by then-House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio). He has recently retired from a faculty position at his alma mater, the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, where he taught American politics.
Based on his writings and some articles about him, Dr. Gade appears to be a strong advocate for self-reliance and getting disabled veterans back to work. How this philosophy will apply to issues that arise under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which the EEOC enforces, is not clear. It could mean that he will strongly advocate reasonable accommodation, which allows individuals with disabilities to be gainfully employed to the fullest extent possible. But he has also spoken out against the military definition of “disability,” contending that it is too broad and encourages veterans to stay out of the work force. For this reason, I would not expect him to favor “pushing the envelope” in favor of ever-broader definitions of “disability.”
In this 2013 op-ed he wrote for The Wall Street Journal (paid subscription required), he said,
By categorizing minor conditions as disabilities, the [veterans] process threatens to become a kind of stealthy welfare system, where those with minor conditions might feather their nests at the expense of both taxpayers and truly disabled veterans trapped behind them in a line that stretches over the horizon. This also harms the veterans who are being told the lie that they are “disabled” and being paid to believe it. Sadly, this process can decrease veterans’ work incentives and dull their ability to contribute to society after military service.
Dr. Gade goes on to advocate that the definition of “disability” in the veterans’ program be narrowed to exclude “minor or age-related conditions,” that veterans’ claims be prioritized based on the seriousness of the conditions, and that the Veterans Administration place a renewed focus on
retraining, rehabilitating and reintegrating veterans into the workforce. Those with serious disabilities should be compensated for their pain and reduced quality of life, but they should also be encouraged to work. Paying veterans to stop working is the wrong course for veterans and for broader American society.
Overall, Dr. Gade’s philosophy about disabled veterans does not seem inconsistent with the aims of the employment provisions of the ADA, or the positions taken by the EEOC under President Obama. It seems that Dr. Gade would favor the EEOC’s stances on “100 percent recovered” policies (the agency takes a dim view of employers who require employees with illnesses or injuries to be “100 percent” before they can return to work) and on placing employees with disabilities on medical leaves of absence (the agency acknowledges that sometimes this is necessary but wants employers to explore other accommodations before they resort to medical leave).
If you’re wondering about Dr. Gade’s leanings on issues like race discrimination, sexual harassment, LGBT rights, or retaliation, I got nothin’.
Here is more on Dr. Gade:
In June, the President nominated Janet Dhillon, a private sector attorney, as EEOC Chair, to replace Jenny Yang, who was EEOC Chair under President Obama. (Ms. Yang’s term expired July 1, but she is allowed to hold her seat until a replacement is confirmed.)
If Ms. Dhillon and Dr. Gade are confirmed, there will be a Republican majority on the EEOC with Victoria Lipnic, another Republican who is currently on the EEOC and serving as Acting Chair. Dr. Gade’s term would expire July 1, 2021.