In 1995, just two weeks before leaving the military service to begin his first day of class at the FBI Academy, Rick Diaz was the victim of a hit and run. He lost his arm and to add insult to injury, Diaz was forcibly retired by the military and told by the FBI that he was no longer a candidate because he could not fire a weapon.

In 1999, when Diaz joined the CIA, he was offered a position in the Office of Inspector General, but he had set his goal on becoming a clandestine case officer.

Diaz was eventually recruited into the Directorate of Operations in 2001 just prior to 9/11 by the Director of the Counterterrorism Center. He went on to deploy overseas following 9/11, becoming the first CIA disabled officer with his type of disability to qualify with a weapon and deploy to a war zone. He followed up in 2007, by becoming the first disabled officer in CIA history with his type of disability to certify as a Case Officer.

The story of the CIA’s first Disabled Case Officer Richard

Saying that Rick faced adversity in his federal agency job search is an understatement. On this podcast episode, he discusses how even taking the polygraph exam to enter the agency provided some challenges with having no feeling in his arm.

“I’ve battled a lot of skepticism over the years about what my limitations were and whether I could reach my goal of becoming weapon qualified and ultimately becoming a Case Officer.  Nonetheless, I pushed forward.”

Never take no for an answer

When applying to the agency, there were some obvious barriers in place for individuals with disabilities (and some not so obvious barriers). While the agency has made some huge strides when it comes to diversity and inclusion in their recruitment efforts, Diaz still maintains that there is still a lot of work to do.

Becoming a first at the CIA is a big deal, but unfortunately, it didn’t change some of the processes for those who have disabilities applying after Diaz or open up the aperture for folks with disabilities to go through the same path he did.

The agency looks a bit different from when he retired in 2019, but for federal agency applicants reading this, Diaz says never give up, and never take no for an answer.


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Katie Keller is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 8+ years in the DoD supporting multiple contractors with recruitment strategy, staffing augmentation, marketing, & communications. Favorite type of beer: IPA. Fave hike: the Grouse Grind, Vancouver, BC. Fave social platform: ClearanceJobs! 🇺🇸