I’M FURIOUS. Please read and lend your support to this soldier with leukemia!Heidi Adams — By Heidi Adams on November 24, 2008 at 7:40 pm
I just finished reading the most offensive news article I have ever seen, courtesy of the San Antonio Express News. For those of you who don’t know, San Antonio, Texas, is home to Lackland Air Force Base, an enormous military installation where they train many new recruits.
According to the article, 21-year-old Airman Basic Joseph Weston had the audacity to be diagnosed with leukemia a couple of weeks after starting basic training. Clearly, he’s too sick to continue with boot camp. But an evaluation board ruled that his leukemia was a pre-existing condition, which means he gets an administrative discharge, which–you guessed it–makes him ineligible for medical and retirement benefits.
It gets worse: According to the article, “The ruling came despite the opinion of an Air Force cancer specialist who said there was “absolutely no way” to prove that Weston came to Lackland sick. The case is being appealed, with Weston fighting to win a discharge that grants him continued medical care and possibly even a pension.”
The newspaper obtained a letter from the military oncologist treating Weston that says, according to routine physical exams, he had a normal amount of blasts in his bone marrow when he came to the base to start basic training.
So this poor kid finally decides to turn his life around by following in his grandfather’s and father’s footsteps and joining the military. (Which, by the way, delayed calling him up for five months. So much for the suspicion that he joined to get treated for his leukemia–he’d pretty much have been dead.) Now he’s got leukemia, his dream is dashed AND he’s being booted from the Air Force with no medical coverage. As so many of us know, there’s no way in hell he’ll ever get any other kind of medical coverage now–except, possibly, Medicaid, but they don’t know about that yet.
This, while, according to Weston, other recruits with stress fractures and anxiety attacks are being given medical discharges.
It gets still worse. While Weston is being treated for his leukemia, he is in a medical holding squadron, along with airmen who flunk drug tests and the walking wounded. He lives in a windowless 10×10 cell and is still subject to the discipline in other training units, such as a 4:45 a.m. daily wakeup call and marching to the dining hall in formation. According to the article: “For a while he was denied the right to read books other than the Bible. Once, he was chastised by a noncommissioned officer for resting his eyes after grueling chemotherapy treatments.” Although the article goes on to say, “He has since been allowed to read and sleep during the day, in accordance with doctors’ orders.” Well, isn’t that sweet of them.
There are a lot of comments following the article. Many people think medical coverage is okay, but he doesn’t deserve the retirement benefits.
We just hope he lives long enough to worry about that.
If you’d like to let Lackland know what you think about this, you can contact the 37th Training Wing Public Affairs office by calling (210) 671-2907 or e-mailing at Publicaf@lackland.af.mil.
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I’M FURIOUS. Please read and lend your support to this soldier with leukemia!