hornetguy is a civilian

Discussion in 'Life After the Academy' started by hornetguy, Feb 2, 2015.

  1. hornetguy

    hornetguy USAFA Cadet

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    I thought I'd follow up with a post elsewhere on the forums. Right now I'm on terminal leave (for the next week) and officially on the job market.

    When I graduated from USAFA, the Air Force promised to hold my pilot slot while I went to get a PhD at the RAND Corporation for three years. At the time, I was fully qualified for pretty much any operational job in the Air Force. In Oct 2013, I left RAND and went to Laughlin for UPT. I was placed in casual status for another 4 months since Laughlin was so far behind on starting people between their own faults and the gov't sequestration. Despite my inquiries at Los Angeles AFB (where my medical records and care were housed) while at RAND, my flying physical and waivers expired. I tried to get them to renew or figure out what to do, but they ignored me there.

    So, when I started UPT in January last year, my medical expired. They rushed to update it on base. Well, while they redid my flying physical, I learned the color vision regulations had changed. A new test was implemented that increased the standard. I failed the new test despite always scoring a perfect on the old standard. I was even more unlucky - the old standard was valid through Jan 2013. Had I gone to ANY other grad program out of USAFA, I would have been within the old standard and allowed to begin UPT. Then, when I winged, I would just have a color vision waiver. Since 2000, there have been ZERO color vision waivers granted prior to beginning UPT. It's one of the craziest and most unchallenged standards out there. Keep in mind, winged pilots always get a color vision waiver 100% of the time. Bizarre dichotomy.

    I spent over a year challenging the standard. I submitted a 100 page waiver appeal (exception to policy) that made it to the AETC commander. He and the 19th AF commander reviewed my package (in Aug 2014) and concurred with my reasoning. They ordered a further review of the standard. The AF medical service sent me to Wright-Patterson AFB for additional testing as well.

    While at WPAFB in Oct, I was given a full vision battery. The techs were hostile and gave me incomplete instructions on the various tests. I called them on it and they said no one else had problems (I knew the instruction standards already from my own research). The doctor was also sketchy and was aware of my FOIA requests into their records. My color vision level was confirmed (VERY mild green weak - functionally indistinguishable from normal in the civilian literature). They doctor used my old records from USAFA and the exams to diagnose me with several "new" conditions that were quite apparent in the old record but deemed unimportant by every previous doctor. These "new" conditions (pre-TPSK and optic nerve disk drusen) are nearly impossible to get waivers for under the new waiver guidelines last year. The doctor sent me home after the first day of testing. In my waiver paperwork, he said I refused additional testing. I had recorded my conversation with him where he advises me to leave and doesn't tell me I need more testing. After submitting the falsification to my records with evidence to the Air Force via my Congressman and Senator, the AF did not correct the record or acknowledge the falsification of my record. The additional conditions do not usually affect people until their 50s or later. Their actions also allowed them to avoid addressing the silly nature of the color vision standard by piling on other "issues." I should add, the new literature on color vision I found from the FAA and Navy aviation cites that the standards are higher than necessary for aviation and color vision is way overrated. They took it, secretly updated the waiver guidelines (did not publicly release) and mis-cited and mis-quoted THOSE papers I found to say the opposite of the abstracts and conclusions.

    The AF medical corps was incredibly sketchy with my case, records, and testing. I was shocked and appalled after that. I began the commander's review process in Nov, by my request. With the color vision diagnosis, I wasn't just DQ'd from flying, I was now DQ from almost every AF operational job. I can not be a pilot, nav, ABM, drone pilot, missileer, space ops, airfield management, communications, or any aviation related officer. I was limited to scientist, logistics, and intel roles for the most part.

    In further considering what to do, I factored in my time at Laughlin. I did experience overt and hostile discrimination that I could not get addressed because of the larger policy exception I was applying to get. I received virtually no command support. I have a friend pursuing the same problem at Vance in near identical conditions. He was attached to my vision exception with the generals. He gave up after my experience. His Wing CC denied his commander's review and his chain is now aggressively pushing his policy package independent of mine to change the color vision standard. His sq/DO asked him if they needed to call MY leadership to address discrimination issues and wondered if that's why I wasn't receiving help from my own chain. I told him it wasn't worth it.

    In the end, I had one of the most miserable years of my life at Laughlin. I had some of the worst leadership I've seen in the AF and found the med corps more interested in protecting their pride than flight safety. I requested an early discharge and it was granted. So, as of Friday last week, I am a civilian living in San Antonio with my husband and trying my best to find a job out here. Wish me luck.

    EDIT: To add even more perspective, my color vision does not DQ me from any other aviation branch - I am medically qualified for FAA, Army, Navy, USMC, and USCG aviation.
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2015
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  2. Boozebin

    Boozebin Member

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    WTH! Are you kidding me? That's the craziest thing I have ever read! With the simple fact that the doctor falsified and you had proof should have called into question the entire exam and the motive of the other BS they tacked on!

    I'm truly sorry that you had to go through this. I wish you and your family the best and I hope you still stay with us here! I've learned a lot about the AFA and AF from your post that I have passed on to my DS. I'm still in shock after reading this.
     
  3. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Geez, that's just as about messed up as it can get.

    Sorry to hear that. Are you beyond any payback for the Ph.D.?
     
  4. hornetguy

    hornetguy USAFA Cadet

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    They have no recourse to make me pay back the PhD. Since the AF did not pay a dime for the education (the tuition is paid by working on RAND projects), they cannot remit any payment. They said I may have to repay the pro-rated remainder of my USAFA commitment, but I haven't been contacted or received any notification of payment (yet). Worst case - they charge me around $6,000 for just shy of 3 months left in my commitment. Considering my ADSC was to Oct 2018, at least I got lucky with the discharge.
     
  5. USMCGrunt

    USMCGrunt Member

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    Sorry to hear your story Hornetguy. I can think of a few acronyms that apply but FUBAR tops the list.

    It is very difficult for one individual to fight the "machine." It usually takes many casualties before changes are made.

    It may be too early to ask, but are there any lessons learned that you can share?
     
  6. Dixieland

    Dixieland Member

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    What a nightmare! I am so sorry this has happened. :-(
     
  7. NavyHoops

    NavyHoops Moderator

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    Wow! This is incredible. It sounds like you had done beyond your due diligence and received zero support. I am sorry to hear that. The military can be so baffling sometimes. I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors and job search. Incredible resume and credentials, I am sure someone will hire you quickly. Hope you find a rewarding and fulfilling career.
     
  8. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    I feel terrible for you. My brother (USAFA '10) is in the same situation. He got a rated slot, and a month before graduation they informed he that he had failed the color vision test, and he ended up in intel (rather unhappily). Best to you, and if you need a connection anywhere shoot me a PM. I know folks all over the SOF enterprise and in the NCR and would be happy to connect you to some good people in the civil sector who could help out.
     
  9. hornetguy

    hornetguy USAFA Cadet

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    Thanks Scout. Your brother and I talked about it back when I was stationed in LA with him. I know more people than fingers and toes now who have had this happen to them. You know there's a problem when the Navy dedicates its three inter-service transfer slots for aviation each year to USAFA grads who fail the color vision tests.

    I'll shoot you a PM depending on how job apps here go over the next few weeks.
     
  10. raimius

    raimius USAFA Alumnus

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    Good grief.

    Are you going to pursue the falsification issue any further? I'd rather that doc not have any more say in AF related things, from the sound of it.
     
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  11. flieger83

    flieger83 Super Moderator Moderator

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    I have a feeling...you're going to be just fine!
    (Now Mother Blue...they screwed up here)

    Steve
    USAFA ALO
    USAFA '83
     
  12. cadet15

    cadet15 Member

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    Unfortunately, I was also a victim of falsified medical records, but the doc was at USAFA. We know of multiple cadets who this particular doc wrote false information into their medical history. One not only lost a pilot slot, but almost a commission. I was basically getting the back door shove out of USAFA and another flat out lost an appeal and was "medically turned back" with the understanding that any appeal would be denied so that cadet was shown the door. I ended up doing some research and found out that this is more common than any of us would like to know and you can't sue mil-mil because it is protected so there is no real incentive to change the system. It is unfortunate, and usually ends up a huge mess for those involved, but there is very little recourse at this time. Thankfully my leadership did all that they could, but all of our hands were tied. I was able to actually finish up my degree earlier than I would have at USAFA and now I am looking to work with some sort of defense contracting so there is a light at the end of the tunnel and I know that my military experience will help me get a foot in with some of the places I am looking, but I would be lying if I didn't say I would love to be in the uniform again and not just have to play from the sidelines.
     
  13. hornetguy

    hornetguy USAFA Cadet

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    It's tough this early in the game. I'm incredibly cynical to the Air Force - but your mileage may vary and many will have great careers. Just not me.

    Sadly, some of my insights are not optimistic. I found that the more "different" my career was, the more difficult my life became. Since I didn't follow a traditional path, many were unsure of what to do with me. The Med group commander wanted me to work for him at Laughlin since my dissertation/PhD was in primary care scheduling. But an ******* LtCol at Wing refused to let me work at the med group. Instead, he forced me to remain in Command Post where I spent >50% of my time working night and weekend shifts. When I approached him saying it was affecting my family life (I needed weekends to travel to AZ to see my husband), the moment I said "husband," he did everything he could to trap me in command post doing 12 hours shifts, supervised by a lower ranking officer than me, answering phones instead of using my education to improve the base. He even forced me out of an executive officer job after I was pulled out of UPT to go back to command post for several months. Didn't matter that another young Lt forced to work there ended up divorced. My family situation didn't mean **** to them. I was left to the whims of a toxic leader and it took me four months to convince someone to stand up for me and pull me out of that awful job. Really, it's less about me hating the job (I can get over that, like so many do), but it was the deliberate sabotage when another group commander wanted my help since I had experience in what they needed.

    In hindsight, I now caution cadets who are offered grad school. I figured it was a one in a million chance something would cause me to lose my 20-year dream of being a military pilot. I lost that bet. For cadets who want nothing more than to be a pilot, I now ask them if they are willing to make the trade-off of school for that pilot slot. It can happen. Look at me. How often do we play the what-if games for candidates? I got to live one of those what-if games out fully. Each candidate and cadet needs to sit back and REALLY consider their goals. Great opportunities can risk the path you want to take. Silver lining - sometimes those choices also have amazing repercussions - I never would have met my amazing husband if I had declined to go to RAND.

    Perhaps the most important lesson that I think every person should follow: FIGHT FOR WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN! I fought the system ruthlessly and persistently until there was nothing more I could do. I have no regrets as I fought to the bitter end. I might help some other people now who can pick up where I left off. At the end of the day, I'm proud of my time, proud of what I accomplished, proud that I never stopped trying my hardest, and proud to say I stood up for what I thought was right. No one could take that from me.

    I do. I worked with BMI for a bit. Haven't talked with Orion yet. Most of them couldn't do much for me since I refuse to relocate away from San Antonio.

    I really can't. I used a congressional inquiry. Unless a congressman's office is willing to pursue further, nothing I could do. I was super unlucky as my primary advocates both lost in the mid-terms this year. Both were Democrats and worked really, really hard for me. The Republican offices that I worked with really didn't put much effort forward and pretty much ignored me once they fulfilled their legal obligations. Maybe luck of the draw. I'm not sure. There isn't anything higher to use. Congressional trumps IG investigations.

    But, I won't hesitate here. The doctor that screwed me at Wright-Patt was Major **name removed**. He was a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (not MD) with a ophthalmology specialization. On the topic of color vision, it was really eye opening when I understood the topic, biology, and pathology better than him. I mean, WTF, this guy is making decisions that affect a large number of people (5-10% of white males have my condition or worse!). I'm not a medical doctor, but damn did my time at RAND teach me to be a researcher.

    **Edited to remove name** -TN
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 3, 2015
  14. Wishful

    Wishful Parent

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    Reading your post left me feeling so sad. Wish you all the best. Stay strong.
     
  15. kp2001

    kp2001 USMMA Alumnus

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    Not sure what you are trying to imply on this one, but the DO degree = MD degree. There are subtle differences, but one is not inferior to the other.
     
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  16. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    Heh heh...sure they are.
     
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  17. kp2001

    kp2001 USMMA Alumnus

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    Want to expand on your thought? (BTW, in case one doesn't feel like looking it up I'm an M.D.) I'll be more than happy to defend the D.O. degree (unless someone starts arguing that cranial manipulation is true science). In my opinion it's not the degree behind your name, but the residency +/- fellowship location that means much more in the end.
     
  18. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    I was just joking around. Most DOs are fine, until you find the one who's bought into the chiropractic/manipulation bunk. Nonetheless, all of the top schools in the country offer an M.D. and not a D.O.
     
  19. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    And it's fair to say there are great difference between DOs and MDs than a naming difference, such as DDS and DMD.
     
  20. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    Why is that "fair to say"? I think (as does KP evidently), that it is in fact a pretty superficial difference at best and that at most hospitals around the country DOs (osteopaths) have the same hospital privileges as MDs.
     

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