Army ROTC Cadet Facing Disenrollment For Failing to Disclose a Medically Disqualifying Condition: Disenrolled with No Active Duty Service Obligation and $100,000 Debt Forgiven.
A female ROTC Cadet was provided notice of disenrollment from the program based on an allegation that she knowingly failed to disclose a medically disqualifying condition, namely that she suffered from and received treatment for a mild case of anxiety during the beginning years of her college career. The U.S. Army views anxiety and other mental health-related disorders and medically disqualifying for military service. During the academic school, year, the Cadet who was a track runner in high school and avid runner throughout college, experiences an injury to first her ankle and then her leg while running. She underwent surgery during the school year for these injuries, prompting her ROTC leadership and Cadet Command to request copies of her medical records in order to determine if she was still physically and medically fit and eligible for military service. The Cadet did as instructed. She blindly requested any and all of her medical records from all of her providers throughout the years to include the orthopedist and physical therapists that treated her leg and/or ankle injury, gynecology, eye doctor and primary care physician who specialized in family practice.
The family practice records contained information that prompted an involuntary disenrollment action from ROTC. These records contained multiple entries that the Cadet, during routing visits her doctor during schools breaks and/or recesses, reports symptoms associated with anxiety while adjusting to college life away from home. According to the records, the doctor never made an official anxiety diagnosis or referred the Cadet for a mental health evaluation. However, she prescribed the Cadet with Xanax, an anxiety medication, which the Cadet admittedly took as needed and even refilled the prescription on several occasions. Because the Cadet failed to voluntarily bring this information to the attention or ROTC or her chain of command, the recent discovery and revelation of it caused ROTC to perceive that the Cadet willfully withheld her anxiety in order to subvert ROTC medical fitness requirements to remain enrolled in the program and on scholarship. As a result, Cadet Command, after reviewing the medical records furnished to it by the Cadet, ordered that she be processed for disenrollment on grounds that she failed to disclose her disqualifying anxiety condition.
After careful thought and consideration, the Cadet and her family made the choice to hire Attorney John L. Calcagni III to assist with this matter. Once retained, he conducted his own investigation which revealed some important facts. First, ROTC never inquired about the Cadets medical condition at any point while enrolled in the program. Prior to accepting the Cadet and awarding her a scholarship, it submitted her to a medical examination and physical which determined she was fit for service. The onset of anxiety-related symptoms did not reveal themselves until sometime later long after the Cadet was enrolled in ROTC. After enrollment, ROTC never inquired of the Cadet or followed up with her regarding his medical status or condition until it requested records related to her ankle and/or knee injury, which it needed to conduct a medical fitness determination. It was only then, after the Cadet turned over all of her records that it learned of the anxiety references in her family practice records. Also, ROTC does not require its Cadets to complete periodic health assessments or recertify medical fitness or readiness until at or near the time of graduation or commissioning. Attorney Calcagni also learned that prior to disclosing her records, the Cadet and her family, to include her father, a retired active duty Army Officer, researched anxiety and active duty military service. This led them to conclude that many Soldiers on active duty had mental health issues and were still allowed to serve. The family also consulted with an active duty Army doctor who urged them to be completely forthcoming with Cadet Command regarding all records and opined that the anxiety references should not be service inhibiting.
Attorney Calcagni assisted the Cadet with presenting her defense at a disenrollment board. Her defense was that she did not knowingly fail to disclose the anxiety to ROTC. In fact, ROTC only learned of her symptoms related thereto because she provided all of her medical records, unfiltered to Cadet Command, in response to its request for her medical records in order to assess or evaluate her ankle/knee injury. The Cadet and her mother also testified that she was never seen or treated by a mental health provider and that the family practice doctor had never formally made an anxiety diagnosis and admittedly, did not have the credentials to do so. The Cadet admitted to taking Xanax as needed for a limited period of time and emphasized that she had not ingested any in more than one year since the date of her disenrollment board. Attorney Calcagni and the Cadet also gathered a series of character statements of support that uniformly attested to the Cadet’s character for honesty, integrity, truthfulness and trustworthiness. With Attorney Calcagni’s assistance, the Cadet and her parents also testified that based on their individual research, they had no reason to believe or suspect that the Cadet’s receipt and taking of Xanax would give rise to a medically disqualifying condition. The Cadet indicated that she researched the issue online and came across articles describing veterans who returned home from the war with mental health issues that had not suffered before deploying overseas and were now taking medications such as Xanax and others to treat their conditions. The Cadet’s father, a retired Army Medical Services Officer indicated also that he never suspected his daughter’s taking of Xanax or potentially suffering from anxiety was service disqualifying. He testified that while on active duty, he encountered a number of Soldiers to whom the Army prescribed Xanax for anxiety and who suffered from other forms of mental illness. Because these persons were allowed to remain no active duty and in the Army, he never suspected his daughter’s situation would create a problem for her with ROTC. Lastly, the family inquired with an Army Surgeon about this who advised the family to be completely truthful and forthright with the Army about the Cadet’s situation, but that the Xanax and potential anxiety should not be an issue.
Based on the foregoing, the Investigating Officers or Board Members at the Cadet’s disenrollment board unanimously voted that the Cadet did not intentionally or willfully misrepresent her medical condition to the Army. She volunteered taking Xanax and fully disclosed all of her medical records, to include those with references to anxiety. Because of this, the Board Members recommended complete forgiveness of her scholarship debt to U.S. Army ROTC totally nearly $100,000.00.