How to Stay in the Military If You Have Diabetes


The military is a tough nut to crack. Although the actual rules about diabetics in the military have eased somewhat, you still may not enlist if you already have the disease. If you contract it while you are on active duty, things are not as clear. Military physicians will make a decision about keeping you on or giving you a medi­cal discharge. They base the decision on whether you have Type I or Type II, the kinds of medications you take, the amount of con­trol you have over your blood glucose, and other factors.

When your diabetes is diagnosed, your case will be pre­sented to a physical evaluation board, which declares you either fit or unfit for military duty. If you are fit, you may either return to your regular assignment or be transferred to another unit or type of work. If you are declared unfit, you are given a military discharge, which you can appeal.

Your chances of staying in the military are much better with Type II diabetes that is controlled without medication. If you need to take oral hypoglycemic agents, it’s a bit more iffy. If you get Type I disease, you can pretty much count on having to pack your duffel bag.

Military have diabetes

If you are a Marine, you will be automatically given a medi­cal discharge. This branch of the service requires every single serviceperson to be combat ready, regardless of one’s current occupation in the Marines. Cooks, clerks, and generals all have to be ready to fight. The Air Force and Navy are fairly rigid about not allowing diabetics to remain on active duty, and the Army has the most inconsistently applied regulations.

Mike is in the Army and got a whopping case of Type I diabe­tes at age forty-three, an unusual thing to happen. At first the doctors didn’t know what was wrong with him, since he wasn’t overweight, he’s physically fit, and he didn’t fit the age profile. He had severe vision problems, and was essentially blind for about three weeks; he also had other symptoms of dia­betes and a blood glucose of 540. That clinched it.

Mike was in the hospital for a while as his blood glucose was controlled and his insulin dosage regulated. Four months after diagnosis, he looks like the picture of health, his vision is fine, and his blood glucose is down to around 140. His case is before the medical review board right now. He’s a recruiter, so he will never have to go to combat, but he doubts they’ll let him stay in. He was really sick at the beginning, and he’s on a complicated insulin-diet regulation program, so he thinks it’s only a matter of time until he gets his medical discharge. He was almost ready to retire anyway. He has eighteen years in so the diabetes would push his discharge up two years; if he ap­peals, he could probably draw the process out for the two years—until he served his full twenty.

His pension would be 50 percent of his most recent base pay if he retired “naturally.” With a medical discharge, he will receive only 30 to 40 percent of base pay. That’s a significant difference, especially if he has a hard time finding work when he gets out of the Army. He has a wife and two children. Also, there is the stigma of being forced to leave the service involun­tarily for something other than a combat-related illness.

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About the Author: Andrew Reinert is a health care professional who loves to share different tips on health and personal care. He is a regular contributor to MegaHowTo and lives in Canada.

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