I am always impressed/amazed at people who want to sign up with the military to defend our country, putting themselves at risk to serve the greater good. There is no bigger sacrifice.
And with our country’s dubious history of getting involved or starting wars that are questionable at best, it’s even more impressive.
But did you know that if you have celiac disease, you cannot enroll in the military? But if you are already enrolled and THEN you get diagnosed, it’s not an issue. Yeah…I know…it makes no sense.
Read the below email I received from someone whose military dreams were shattered due to a diagnosis of celiac disease. Here’s a guy who busted his ass; who wanted nothing more that to follow in his family’s footsteps. And he got shot down because of our disease.
Part of me gets it. How can they accommodate someone with celiac food-wise especially on the front-lines? But if 1% of our population has celiac, wouldn’t it be easier to recruit people if they could somehow offer gluten-free meals?
No easy answers I know. If you’ve got any suggestions or simply opinions, I’m sure he’d love to hear them.
And just to be clear, this is not a rant. I’m not claiming discrimination against celiacs. I’m just not good at accepting things “just because it’s the way it’s always been done.”
Fantastic blog. It is great having such a strong, growing community of empowered fellow sufferers.
After reading your blog, I had to shoot an email. If you do not mind me taking a bit of your time, and ask for a little assistance, I would truly be in your debt.
I come from a long line of military service. My father served in Vietnam, my two great uncles spent months under the pacific in a submarine and stormed Iwo Jima on the first wave respectively. Even my great grandfather served in the Black Watch in his native Scotland. So it was apparent even as a child I would do my best to follow in my ancestors’ footsteps, all while pursuing my personal objective of attending medical school. My hard work and dreams finally came to fruition at the end of college as I was being considered for an MD/PhD program at USUHS in Bethesda, Md. Yet that’s when my dreams would be crushed by a variable out of my control.
Two years ago I was diagnosed with celiac disease, and the military does not accept people with this disease. I was medically disqualified by DODMERB, and all waiver attempts have been denied. Years of hard work, a 3.9 GPA, a 32 MCAT, and a desire to spend my entire career in the service have been for naught. The most frustrating aspect of this situation is that I have almost no physical symptoms, am not on medications, and the few symptoms I have are completely controlled by diet. Yet even though my disease would not affect my ability to serve, my dreams have come to a screeching halt.
Militaries in other countries accept celiac patients like Israel. Even in our military there are celiac patients that are accommodated for, albeit ones that have already been accepted and are diagnosed after being in for some time. The fact that one percent of the population, nearly 3 million people, have no chance to give their service to their country is a disgrace. Especially because the confirmed cases of celiac disease is on the rise. Talented, motivated, and for all intents and purposes healthy individuals like myself, who have little to no physical symptoms that are completely controlled by diet, have to sacrifice their dreams because the system cannot adapt to accept these individuals.
I understand the need to maintain physical standards. I understand that these standards need to be strict to reduce the risk of accepting soldiers who cannot perform their duties due to illness. But when a medical standard is so stringent it causes the military to pass over qualified people who are physically fit for duty then they are not only ruining dreams but also hurting the organization it is supposed to protect.
Unfortunately it seems it is too late to pursue my dream, and I am in the process of correcting the course of my career path. But I just wonder, is there anything that can be done to change DODMERB’s medical standards in reference to celiac disease, so that thousands of young, talented, dedicated citizens like myself have the opportunity to pursue their dreams?
I contacted public officials who spoke to the DOD on my behalf. But like most aspects of government, when you question a policy they just point to a rule over and over again like it was chiseled on a tablet ripe of mount sinai and say “sorry we cant change this”, no matter how frivolous it may be.
So I am contacting bloggers, reporters, celebrities, pretty much anyone who remembers that pencils still are created with a rubber end, who understand that frivolous laws have very real consequences to people who they affect, and who can at least give me advice on how to take on such a huge task as changing DOD policy to give those with celiac disease a chance.
Thank you again for your time GD and I hope to hear from you about this issue.