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The Law About Health Problems in the U.S. Army

Aug 17, 2007
My brother is leaving for Iraq. He has to go into combat training August 22nd. His sergeant doesn't know about his mental illnesses, he is bi-polar and has a panic disorder and some type of aggression disorder also. How can the military except someone in this state of mind. To me it seems like committing suicide by going to Iraq in this state of being. Can he take his medication? What if he is unable to take it? He is also addicted to pain killers since he has a bad back. Is there a mental evaluation before he leaves? Would he be a danger to his own comrades?

ANSWER: All soldiers receive an entrance complete physical examination, including a review of psychiatric issues and past medical history. Soldiers also must undergo a five-year (or sooner, depending on the soldier's particular job) physical reevaluating his physical status. Soldiers who exhibit symptoms of illness - physical or mental - are referred to the military treatment facility for diagnosis and treatment, if necessary. Soldiers preparing for deployment (such as your brother) undergo a predeployment examination in addition to the above examinations. If your brother has the problems you state he does, they should be included in his military medical records, which will be reviewed prior to his deployment and, when the conditions arose, whether at deployment or prior, will make him non-deployable.

The fact that he is scheduled for deployment and has the conditions you allege leads me to assume that he has not reported these conditions. If so, he needs to have his treating physicians report the conditions to the military physicians. Some of the above disorders may not make him nondeployable, especially if controllable with medication.

Your brother should see his military primary care physician and ensure his conditions are noted, diagnosed, and treated, and this physician will ensure that the necessary actions are taken regarding his deployment status. I recommend he do so as soon as possible.

I am a contracted cadet, so I am no longer able to get out of the Army. This year I have been having a lot of anxiety problem and feeling depressed (mostly form the anxiety). I think I may have some form of an anxiety disorder, however, I am afraid to seek help because I don't want to get disqualified (I need ROTC to pay for college). From what I've read it seems that if I see a doctor and get diagnosed with something that I inform them about I will lose my scholarship. I'm wondering if I see a doctor and do not inform the Army if they can find out. Can the Army search my medical or insurance records without my consent? What would you suggest is the best course of action?

ANSWER: While you can visit a doctor and not inform the Army, ultimately (likely at your commissioning physical), you will be asked. If you lie, you will commit a felony under the UCMJ. The physician you see may turn to someone - ROTC - for billing for your treatment, and if s/he finds you need follow up because of the seriousness of your condition, s/he may wish to contact your primary care provider.

Not all anxiety disorders disqualify one from military service.

The bottom line comes down to this - is getting a diagnosis and treatment more important to you than going untreated and remaining in need of treatment, and is your integrity worth only the cost of your college tuition? As to the first question, if you feel you need treatment, you should get it, as going untreated with a real condition could endanger your health and prevent your recovery. As to the second, I would not want an officer who I could not trust, and if your integrity slips on this, it will slip elsewhere, causing you further frustration and heartache when it does. The Army is not the place for one who would lie about a medical issue.

Can the Army search your medical or insurance records without your consent? Your health is a military-related issue, and the Army has the right to check on it.

But in the end, the chance of the Army finding out about your visit to a physician, on your own, is not great. So you make the call.

The best course of action is to get yourself to a physician if you think you need it. Chances are any diagnosis you get will not be service-disqualifying, but if it is, then it is a serious diagnosis for which you will need professional treatment.
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Victor Epand is an expert consultant for http://www.WarGear.info/. WarGear.info carries the best selection of military clothing, war gear, and combat accessories on the market.
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