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From Fort Drum, New York, USA:

I am an active duty US Army soldier who developed (presumably type 1) diabetes, about six months after my enlistment. The one concern on my mind is what options the Army might offer me as a future insulin dependent soldier. I am most interested in my long-term health, rather then staying in my field. I would like to re-class, or possibly be medically discharged with benefits. Can you help me with any suggestions as of what to do because as this is all very new to me, the Army as well as diabetes, I am not very familiar with all their policies?


I believe the service policy would provide you a medical discharge. As far as I know, only the Israeli military and the Swiss military allow volunteers to join or stay in the service when diabetes is diagnosed. This is all blatant discrimination, but nobody has tried to fight this, and certainly nobody has tried to fight this and succeeded. It would not be appropriate to be in a combat situation with type 1 diabetes since this is simply too risky. However, in a noncombatant position, as allowed by Israel and Switzerland, this would not be a problem in the US services. Most of the world, however, does what the USA does and simply medically discharges people diagnosed with diabetes and also does not allow them entry if the diagnosis is already known.

Make sure that you are well educated. You should insist on consultations with a board certified endocrinologist, and nurse and dietitian who are Certified Diabetes Educators. Several of the large Army referral hospitals have such diabetes teams available if you are still in the Army, and many such services are available as a civilian, of course.

If you have your heart on staying in the Army and want a good battle, you may want to consider protesting your medical discharge. Both the American Diabetes Association and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation would back such a protest, if you would be willing to serve in a non-combat position -- and fight the bureaucracy. I and many other diabetologists would also love to help with such a battle with the right person since it is blatant discrimination and such decisions should be individualized.


Original posting 26 Mar 2001
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