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Do some medical conditions automatically disqualify a soldier?

Can a food allergy render a cadet unfit for service and jeopardize his or her ROTC program participation? According to a recent incident involving a sergeant in the U.S. Army Cadet Command’s ROTC program, the answer to that question might be yes.

Specifically, the sergeant was found medically unqualified to continue in the ROTC program because of his alleged sleep disturbances and intestinal malabsorption syndromes. Yet the ROTC disqualification was not the same as a discharge from the army. Rather, the sergeant was told he would receive orders to serve as an enlisted troop.  

According to the sergeant, he had actually been on the verge of a medical discharge several years before when he was experiencing weight loss and lung abscesses. Yet doctors in the warrior transition unit where he was being treated diagnosed his condition as celiac disease. The inherited autoimmune disorder is triggered by foods containing gluten, such as wheat. When he cut gluten out of his diet, the sergeant claims he recovered. After that recovery, the sergeant went on to win a solider of the year award and earned a master’s degree. 

According to a spokesperson from the U.S. Army Cadet Command, celiac disease and sleep apnea are among the listed, non-waiverable medical conditions that disqualify a solider from commissioning. The soldier’s medical records were apparently not brought to the attention of the unit until years after the diagnosis, at which time he was subjected to the ROTC disenrollment.

However, medical records are generally part of a soldier’s electronic personal files, and can be accessed through Army Knowledge Online. The sergeant claims his records contained discrepancies, sometimes characterizing the condition as an allergy, rather than celiac disease. An attorney may be needed to help the sergeant review his procedural rights.

Source: Military Times, “Medical mix-up sidelines Army sergeant's career,” Patricia Kime, Jan. 14, 2016

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