Keesler Airman Challenges Medical Discharge

A Gulfport woman claims the Air Force is unfairly denying her dream of a career in the military. The issue involves a disputed medical discharge.

Both sides agree Danielle Staten has asthma. The controversy is when the disease began. The Air Force labels it a "pre-existing condition", something Airman Staten is challenging.

"I'm being discharged based upon the fact, the board is stating that my asthma condition existed prior to service, which is EPTS. I am battling that," explained Danielle Staten.

Her battle involves a lengthy appeal and a mountain of paperwork. She enlisted in June of 2003 and passed the physical. A diagnosis of asthma in early '04 prompted the medical discharge, with no continuing benefits.

"I'm non-deployable. And I'm being discharged based on that, because I can't fulfill my duties," she said.

Once the asthma was diagnosed, she was assigned more limited duty with the 81st Security Squadron.

"I worked gates, gate guard, I did. I was taken off those duties and placed in the pass and registration office where we write temporary passes for those who visit Keesler Air Force base,"  said Staten.

Medical privacy rules prohibit Air Force officials from commenting about her case. But the captain who oversees the Medical Evaluation Board says the process is thorough and fair.

"The member is given an opportunity in each case to add information to support their case. It's a very transparent system and the member has every opportunity to know what's being presented and present their side of the case to the best of their ability," said Captain Alan Hardman, who oversees the Medical Evaluation Board which reviews such cases.

Air Force rules say displaying signs or symptoms of a disease shortly after enlistment would support he contention about "pre-existing condition". Airman Staten admits she was having difficulties breathing during boot camp.

"But I was told that it was a cold. And so I said, I'll take my medicine and get better. From time to time, I would," she said.

She's lost the challenge so far, but plans on exhausting her appeal.

"Somebody has to get an answer as to why this is occurring. Why are the regs not applying to Airman Staten?" she wonders.

The asthma was diagnosed by a civilian doctor. Airman Staten says military doctors she'd visited earlier, diagnosed her symptoms as a cold. The Medical Evaluation Board that reviewed her case is made up of three physicians, including the senior ranking active duty doctor as Keesler.