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Diabetes - Type 1 Community
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Avatar universal

Working in the military as a diabetic?

I read an answer to a question about joining the military as a diabetic and the answer was a resounding NO. However I was wondering if diabetics would be accepted as non-combat positions. Example: Could I join the military and go through basic training as a diabetic, but go into something other than combat so that the complications of combat would be eliminated? Thanks for any answers.

Secondary: When diabeties is cured (I wish every day) would it be a clean cut cure where there would be no further medical needs, therefore allowing cured diabetics to serve in the military? Again, thanks for any helpful information.
26 Responses
Avatar universal
My spouse is a military personnel officer, and I asked him this question, even though I think that I know the answer. He replied that because he is not a recruiter and has not been asked this question personally, he cannot state the answer without doubt. However, he suspects that the answer is still "no". The reason is that the military services are not interested in taking people with ANY kind of pre-existing medical condition, not only because of danger in a combat situation, but also because of the costs of medical care for the rest of that person's life.

I do know that if a person is diagnosed as type 1 while active duty, he or she may be able to stay active duty IF his or her job does not require combat duty. Now this is true only in some cases, and in some branches of the military. I know some medical personnel (doctors) who have developed diabetes and who are active duty, while other people I know have been discharged from the service after being diagnosed. If a person develops diabetes when already in the military, it really depends on his or her job as far as whether he or she can stay on active duty.

So, while we suspect that the answer is "no", the only way to be sure is to give your local recruiter a call. The recruiters would be the best people to answer this question. They are more than willing to talk with you, and they know all of the rules about eligibility.

As for your second question, we cannot speculate at this point, for we really do not know what form a cure will take until it happens. At this point, there is research going on that involves trying to re-grow beta cells, and of course, this would be a true cure. In the meantime, there may be stop-gaps that come along that are partial cures or improvements to how we treat type 1 diabetes today, and of course we would accept these if they improved our health. We just have to wait and see what becomes available and how the military treats it when it happens. Let's hope it is soon.
Avatar universal
I know your not 100% sure, but thank you so much for such a quick respons and thorough answer. It is dissapointing that they are so discriminating against ANY medical condition. I do wonder if they take into conserderation your value to them however. I would in no way like to brag about myself, but I am very inteligent and I have been in all of the top Honors and A.P. classes in High School, so I wonder if my value to them could outweigh medical costs for diabeties. I can only hope, right? I will try to talk to a recruiter at some point to know for sure. Though what I have heard from here and other people makes me a little depressed. :(
Avatar universal
Ares, your intelligence DOES make you valuable. I have suggested this to other people who have written to us about military service, and I want to suggest it again... my spouse and I have been part of the Air Force for 26 years now, and I am amazed at how many jobs that used to be done by active duty personnel are now done by civilians. Any working base is made up of many more civilians than active duty. The civilians rise in rank as they progress just like the active duty folks, and I even knew one high-ranking civilian who was a Squadron Commander!!! So check out the civilian jobs for the nearest military base. They can accept diabetics, and the benefits are wonderful -- great health coverage, the opportunity to travel if you want to, and a real service to your country. There are civilians in just about every area of the military working machine. No, the civilians do not wear the uniform, but the civilians are really the bulk of the military organization nowadays. This is because when the Cold War ended, numbers of Active Duty started being cut, and they are still being cut. My husband was 3 years at a large base in the midwest as a Group Commander, and he was asked to cut his active duty forces 2 times during this short 3-year time frame. What do they do when the active duty numbers are cut? They contract the jobs out to civilians. The jobs don't go away, but they are just done by civilians. You will be surprised at how many civilian jobs there are on any mlitary base. Please do check it out.

I am a type 1 diabetic, and have been since childhood. I have had civilian jobs on military bases, and am proud to state that every young Air Force pilot-to-be is learning to fly right now using illustrations and animations that I created as a civilian contractor for the Air Force. My diabetes was not an issue at all. I do wish you the very best.
Avatar universal
The above posters are all correct.  Unfortunately, you'll never get to wear the uniform.  That's just the way it is.  Diabetes is one of many medical conditions that will automatically preclude you from active duty in the military.  Just like it prohibits you from being a commercial pilot or truck driver.  Although we like to think we're able bodied and can serve .... in reality, we would be a liability to the safety of those around us.  There are technically no non-combat roles.  Even the lowest cook or mechanic or clerk or dentist has to be prepared and able to serve on the line if armed bodies are needed.  If you try to hide the fact, it'll come out in your physical and you'll get a medical discharge before you even reach the bus to  basic training.  Heaven help you if you make it to basic and then they find out you knowingly neglected to inform them.  If you want to work in the military - seek employment with defense contracting firms which are actively involved within the military establishment.  You'll be well compensated for your work and as any career military personnel will tell you - you won't have to put up with even half of the B.S. military personnel have to grin and bear.
Avatar universal
I very much understand the disappointment of youngsters with Type 1 (IDDM) at not being allowed to serve in the military.  One's military service is often the most significant period in the whole life of a veteran.  I was a nuclear submarine officer who had completed six years of active service and was in the reserves when I developed Type 1 in my late 20s.  I had to resign from the naval reserves as a direct result.

Understandably, no one has been or ever will be allowed entry to the military services who was known to be Type 1.  I have been interested in the stories of Type 1 diabetics who have been allowed to remain in the service in the past 25 years.  I know of only two cases, but likely there have been others.  One was a musician, the other was a cryptographer.  Both held very specialized positions, and both had to muster considerable political influence (senators, congressmen, etc.) to be allowed to remain in service.  Their being allowed to remain in service was grossly unfair to the great majority of those who develope Type 1 diabetes while in the military who are forced out.  But let me state my opinion clearly.  Type 1 diabetes is plainly and uncontestably disqualifying for military service.  Anyone who is familiar with the military AND Type 1 DM knows this.  There should NEVER be any relaxation of the requirements that military servicemen of any specialty, combat or non-combat, be FULLY medically fit.

I consider myself extremely lucky that my Type 1 developed after I had completed my active military service.  I do very much sympathize with all the young Type 1 people who won't be allowed to join a military service.  But they should already know by now that life isn't fair.
Avatar universal
I joined the Air Force on 18Sep00.  I developed Type I diabetes on 11Jul04.  I am insulin dependant on a pump and could not have tighter control on my situation.  Since my initial MEB I have not had any problems with staying in the military.  Each case is different.  Just because you are a diabetic doesn't mean you will be automatically kicked out.  I work on nuclear missles and the subsystems.  Any monkey could do my job.  It doesn't matter who you know or what job you have, fight to stay in if you want.  Don't lay down and accept a discharge.  
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