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My Medical Retirement Story

From diagnosis to retirement, my medical board took over a year (thanks COVID).

created by author using Midjourney

Originally published here on Medium

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For those of you who don’t know, I am a 100% disabled, retired Army veteran. Sometimes I’m ashamed to call myself that because I didn't get to do much with my Army career. My mental health kind of slammed that door shut and locked it with a deadbolt. I was diagnosed bipolar type II after a 10-day stay in a psychiatric hospital. That’s a story for another time, but suffice it to say I was ready to get out of there. This was in February/March of 2019. Then later in March (or maybe April), my psychiatrist started my medical board. I wasn’t retired until June of 2020. I do think it’s possible my psychiatrist jumped the gun on initiating the medical board process. We met once, maybe twice, and he was ready to kick me out of the Army. It’s an old-Army thing, probably. Crazy people can’t serve. Also, I’m pretty sure he was retiring, so I don’t think he could care less about what happened to me because it wouldn’t follow him into his next career. The process was excruciatingly slow. COVID made scheduling medical appointments next to impossible, not to mention that people working from home had different capabilities from working in the office (not saying it’s a bad thing, it’s just athing). For example, I was supposed to get a hearing test done and the next appointment was at least three months out. Luckily, I wasn’t claiming hearing loss, so they could use an alternative test to complete my file. Also, masks everywhere. I continued to work in my office job at West Point, where I was “stationed” while recovering from my knee surgery. Yeah, that’s a thing. They call us “med holds.” I was supposed to work in the Russian Department. They went through great lengths to request me, only to find out that their request was “too late.” They couldn’t have known to do it earlier because I wasn’t injured until April of 2019, and the deadline was (probably) in January. Add to that that the department head where I ended up working “preferred graduates branched Aviation” because he was Aviation, and you get me in an office job where (I believe) my talents were wasted. I did make friends in that office for whom I baked muffins and with whom I laughed on a regular basis. I still communicate with a lot of them on a regular basis. So many things went wrong with my Army career. From a surprise torn ACL right before graduation to getting stuck doing almost nothing, it’s no surprise I didn’t fight the medical board. For reference, my biggest task was moving boxes on a PowerPoint slide used as a calendar. The thing I was most worried about at that point was that they would find me “fit” to stay in the military, which I actually would have been happy to do if the time I spent working at West Point was actually counted towards my service obligation. From the paperwork, it looked like it wasn’t. By the end of my med board, I was facing eleven total years in the Army. Two that I worked at West Point that didn't count, five thanks to going to West Point, two for flight school, and two for having gone to flight school. Eleven years is a long time to a twenty-four-year old. Yes, I do feel some regret about my time in the Army. If-I-had-only’s haunt me from time to time. If I had only decided to choose a different branch. If I had only not taken that combatives class (it was 100% optional). If I had only hidden my mental health from the doctors. But those choices have long since been made. I’d like to continue writing about the medical board process for those who need help figuring things out. I would have to look through emails and my paperwork to remember everything that happened — I’ve since blanked out most of that time period because it was somewhat traumatic — but I am not sure if there’s interest. Hopefully, this veteran’s story will help someone out there.

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