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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane nurse hoping to enlist in Navy praises new bill in Congress that would open military to amputees for medical roles

Hannah Cvancara, a 26-year-old orthopedic nurse, had one leg amputated as a 1-year-old because of a condition in which the bones in her legs, ankle and foot don’t grow with her body. She is now trying to become an active duty Navy nurse. But the amputation disqualifies her from going into the active military.  (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

A Spokane nurse who has been trying to enlist in the Navy for years is hopeful Congress takes action on legislation introduced last week that would finally allow her to serve.

Hannah Cvancara, who grew up in a military family, has long wanted to serve in the military, particularly in the Navy’s Nurse Corps. But civilians who want to join the military can’t be missing any part of their limbs, which disqualifies Cvancara from enlisting.

A bill introduced last week by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers would allow people with non-service-related amputations to join the military in medical roles, according to a release from her office.

While the prosthetic can be difficult to swim with, it doesn’t inhibit Cvancara’s ability to pass the Navy’s physical fitness test for women between 25 and 29 years old.

“It looks like a liability to the Navy, but my goal is to show that because of my disability and my prosthetic that I am good to go. It’s an asset and a strength,” said Cvancara, who works full time as a nurse at the Providence Medical Park Surgery Center. “It’s not like I require constant care to function. The whole point of having a prosthetic is that I can do all the things I need to do and I don’t need continued care.”

Cvancara, 27, participated in seven different sports in high school and college and maintains an active lifestyle today as a frequent hiker, backpacker and regular at the gym. She competed in a 10-kilometer Spartan obstacle course race this summer in Colorado, she said.

Cvancara said she always has wanted to join the military. Her father was a flight surgeon in the Air Force before practicing medicine in Spokane.

“His medical experience really opened my eyes to being a nurse, but the other part was my patient experience,” said Cvancara, who has undergone six surgeries on her leg.

Cvancara was born with fibula hemimelia, a congenital birth defect where the bones in her legs, ankle and foot don’t grow with her body. Cvancara’s left foot was amputated when she was 1 year old.

She first attempted to join the Navy in 2017 but was denied due to her missing foot. She began the process to enlist again with waivers last summer. That’s also when she started working with McMorris Rodgers’ office and different disabilities rights advocates.

She has met dozens of people with similar stories who hope to serve in the military, she said.

In March this year, she began the process at the Military Entrance Processing Station for a full medical evaluation, but was denied again. If accepted, she would enter the Navy Nurse Corps as a lieutenant junior grade. If that happens, she would be the first civilian with an amputation to successfully join the military.

“Hannah is one of the most inspiring women I’ve ever met,” McMorris Rodgers, a Republican from Spokane, said in a statement. “She is a fierce veterans and disabilities advocate, a successful graduate nurse, and a former collegiate athlete. Above all, she is living proof that no one is defined by their circumstances.”

While McMorris Rodgers’ bill would only allow civilians to join the military in medical roles, Cvancara hopes that the bill might expand later to include other service roles.