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ROTC Medical Waiver

Posts: 1
Joined: Jul 2007

I was diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2004. At the time I had a contract with the ROTC program at Texas A&M with a 4yr scholarship. I had been in almost 2 years. After being diagnosed, I was medically disqualified and notified by the professor of military science. I have been doing some research and it seems there is a possibility that I can get a medical waiver after being in remission 2yrs (I hit 2yrs in June) and having a survival rate of about 95%, which I believe I have. I had a great prognosis from the beginning and underwent standard ABVD treatments and radiation, all without any problems. I mean among other races, I ran two half marathons while undergoing treatments. That's got to count for something, right?

In any case, I wanted to make sure this was in fact possible. Recruiters that I try to ask over the phone about it just tell me know "no" right away, as if they assume they're right, but don't want to look into it. Any help please?

spongebob's picture
Posts: 2599
Joined: Apr 2003

crgn84 -

One thing you will find about many (not all) military folks; if they can give you a "No. Go away." and you're willing to take it, then they are happy to oblige. The thinking is that if your issue isn't important enough for you to research yourself and to dig your heels in on, then it can't be important enough for them to waste their time on.

Something else you need to know about the military, NEVER TRUST A RECRUITER!! Just ask any buzz-cut boot-camper. That's usually the FIRST lesson you learn.

Now then, as to the specifics of your question...

It sounds as though you have done some research. Do you have a cite? Is it from an Army directive? That would carry water for you. I am a Coast Guard O-5 so I don't have access to the Army regs, which - when you're speaking medically - can vary from service to service.

2. There are two schools of thought as to who you should reach out to. The medical community or the community that awarded you the scholarship. I would start with the medical community; they are less put-off by the word "Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma" than most of the rest of the Army is. They already "get it" that cancer doesn't automatically mean you're going to die. I would start with Walter Reed Hospital's website. E-mail the patient affairs ombudsman and ask your question. Ask for the Army Directive that they cite when they say yes or no. Get a copy of that cite.

Another route you have available to you - AFTER you have tried to work with the Army is your Congressman. Let me tell you, based on 6 years in Washington DC, a Congressional inquiry gets IMMEDIATE, HIGH-LEVEL attention and causes many staffers to dig through volumes of Directives to get the RIGHT answer. Just be careful asking questions you may not want to hear the answer to - although it sounds like you've got nothing to lose.

I hope this helps. And CONGRATS on being NED!

Be well.

- (Commander) SpongeBob

Posts: 1
Joined: Jul 2001

Any updates?

I am a childhood leukemia survivor (ALL) who desperately wants to join the Coast Guard (reserve commission via OCS). I'm in great shape and have been in remission for 9+ years...

I was very discouraged to see that there was a change in DoD Directive & Instruction relating to medical standards for appointment to ANY of the armed forces. The language in DoD Instruction 6130.4 used to say, "Malignant tumors (V10), exception for basal cell carcinoma, removed with no residual. In addition, the following cases should be qualified if on careful review they meet the following criteria: individuals who have a history of childhood cancer who have not received any surgical or medical cancer therapy for 5 years and are free of cancer; individuals with a history of Wilm's tumor and germ cell tumors of the testis treated surgically and/or with chemotherapy after a 2-year disease-free interval off all treatment; individuals with a history of Hodgkin's disease treated with radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy and disease free off treatment for 5 years; individuals with a history of large cell lymphoma after a 2-year disease-free interval off all therapy." (I found two web sites, including about.com, that quote this section.) However, when I went to the DoD website to print the directive, I found it had been reissued in Dec. 2005 with a substantial change in the language of the relevant section. It now reads "Current or history of malignant tumors (V10) is disqualifying. Skin cancer (other than malignant melanoma) removed with no residual, is not disqualifying."

As I understand it, the new language does not actually preclude a waiver (so no change in policy). It does seem to eliminate any special consideration for a group better prognosis cancers. So, presumably, after being disqualified at MEPS, the waiver request should still make its way to a Coast Guard medical officer who will make the final determination. I can only hope for the best there.

If that fails, any suggestions on how to approach a congressman for help? (Specifically, what should I ask for?)

I *really* want to join the CG--I have a year and a half left before I'll be "too old" (27) and I'm more than willing to "dig my heels in." Any help is greatly appreciated.

Posts: 1
Joined: Jun 2011

If you had ALL you did NOT have a malignant tumor. This change to the reg is very interesting and somewhat inexplicable. The current reg 6130-03 makes almost no mention of cancer. I think, however, it does mention leukopenia, which is usually a side effect of leukemia.

Posts: 2
Joined: Oct 2011

I am an ALL survivor (diagnosed 1999, chemo through 2001). I was able get a medical waiver to join the navy. If you are healthy now you should be able to obtain a similar waiver. Don't be discouraged with the early people telling you that you will be disqualified. This is actually true that you will be disqualified because a history of malignant disease including leukemia is disqualifying. However, it is a waivable disease if you have had a disease free remission period for 5+ years. You'll need to get letters from your oncologists and likely clearance from other specialists as well. But joint the military after surviving cancer is very possible.

Posts: 4
Joined: Dec 2005

You will need to study UCMJ case law find presidence. Get to know your state senators they can help. Do some USO volinteering.

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