Active duty 6YR - Hydrocephalus

NotDeceptive

Registered Member
#1
I wasn't sure where to post this, so I posted it here.

I'll have been in the AF for six years in August. I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus at birth. It is a neurological disorder that will eventually result in seizures and death. I have, of late, become mildly concerned for my health. How would I be affected if I were to go to a doctor concerning my issue? The headaches are becoming worse, as is my memory, so I am somewhat concerned. As I have stated, this condition will eventually (shortly, based on the symptoms) kill me, so I'm curious as to what the AF would do to me if I were to come forward. Any help is appreciated.
 

Matt Kozyra

PEB Forum Veteran
Registered Member
#2
@NonDeceptive,

I'm sorry to hear about your new symptoms, and I know this must be pretty terrifying for you. I don't know when the last time you saw a doctor about it was, but there are a fair amount of new treatment options available for hydrocephalus since you were a baby. I've had several clients get great results with shunt placements, which can open up your aqueducts or divert the CSF to less damaging areas. From a medical perspective, you should definitely see a doctor.

From a legal perspective, I suspect you're familiar with the "8 year rule." If not, here's a basic breakdown. For most people, being diagnosed with a disease on Active Duty qualifies them for the "presumption of soundness," where the Air Force is not allowed to say that the condition existed prior to service unless they have clear and unmistakable evidence that it did. If you were diagnosed with hydrocephalus at birth, then you don't qualify for the presumption of soundness. You DO, however, qualify for the "presumption of aggravation." Even though you had the diagnosis when you enlisted, we still assume that your time in the Air Force made it worse. To overcome that presumption, the PEB will need to show by clear and unmistakable evidence that any worsening of the condition was due to the natural progression of the disease, and not because of the unique stressors of military service or any other thing that happened while you were on orders. In other words, the fact that you are now having headaches and memory loss is just due to the normal progress of hydrocephalus, and you'd still be having the same headaches and memory loss if you'd spent the last six years delivering pizzas.

That's a hard burden for the Air Force to overcome, but it's not super unusual to get an EPTS (existed prior to service) decision, especially if this is a genetic condition that you've had since birth. That's the risk in coming forward - an EPTS finding will still get you separated from the Air Force, but it will result in no severance pay or disability retirement. You get separated without medical benefits.

Here's where the "8 year rule" comes in. By law, the Air Force is not allowed to say that a condition is EPTS if you've been in for at least 8 years. They count that from your enlistment date all the way to the day you actually separate. So, even if you start the MEB process when you're at 7 years, if you make it to 8 before the process is over, you're in the clear.

6 years time-in-service is hard, because another 2 years is a really long time to be risking permanent brain damage for a chance at disability retirement. Also, if you start having seizures on the flight line, that decision might be taken away from you. Folks tend to notice things like that.

I can't tell you what to do here, other than to say I'm so sorry this condition is creeping up on you faster than you anticipated. Those are the main considerations I see.

-Matt
 

NotDeceptive

Registered Member
#3
Thank you very much for the informative reply. It provides me with lots of new information to consider before proceeding. I'm IT in the AF, so no worry about endangering others.
 
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