Monday, March 07, 2005

Paperwork, paperwork, everywhere, and way too much for me

(Warning: this post could be construed to contain a bit of angst, so proceed at your own risk).

So today I got my first indoctrination into the evil empire of paperwork that constitutes the Air Force health care bureaucracy: I received my paperwork regarding my DODMERB physical that I need to have in order to be able to activate my ROTC scholarship. Granted, it doesn't really matter now because I don't go on scholarship anyway until my sophomore year (stupid manpower cuts), but I still need to get the physical done before I can be approved for the scholarship and begin taking part in AFROTC.

Actually, to be honest, the indoctrination started a few weeks ago, when I got a little envelope from AFROTC HQ at Maxwell. It gave me a toll free number in Colorado that I needed to call in order to set up an appointment for my DODMERB physical with an approved physician in my area. The postcard also told me to have my SS number and calendar ready. I call the number, a polite gentleman picks up on the third ring. I explain why I'm calling, so he asks for my name and my SS number. I identify myself; he then explains to me that he is going to now contact Concorde Inc, which is the company that DOD contracts out to in order to provide a list of approved doctors and optometrists. He then tells me that I'm good to go and that Concorde will be sending me a package containing further information in a week or two.

Yes, I know. That appeared as absurd to me as I'm sure it does to you. It baffled me that Maxwell felt the need to tell me to have my calendar ready when they had to good and well know that Colorado had no need for my calendar, and that I would be scheduling my appointment personally, not through Colorado. Then the bigger absurdity: why do I need to contact Colorado in the first place? Concorde Inc. is located in Philadelphia. So, in the DOD's convulted logic, I needed to contact Colorado, with SS number and calendar ready, so they could fire off an email to Philadelphia telling Philadelphia to send me a sheaf of papers; the only one that really mattered being the one that has the contact information for the physician's office on it, so that I can contact the physican and set up an appointment. Wouldn't it have just been simpler for Colorado to have the doctor's name on hand? I guess that would make sense.

Ah, this could be a long and painful career if I don't learn how to deal with paperwork. I'm sure all things will come in time. The saddest part of my story is that up to this point, I haven't even received the actual DODMERB physical form yet. Let me tell you, it is a doozy.

To begin with, I have to read a paragraph that is provided on the sheet to my doctor to detect any speech impediments. I guess conversation with him wouldn't be enough. Then I have to go through the list of 74 questions relating to my health. Most of them are relatively benign, if tedious, but a few are downright laughable. The first 8 questions relate to illegal drug use. Now, this might appear to be normal, but the irony comes when you consider what you had to affirm during the application process for your ROTC scholarship. When I went in for my lovely interview with Captain UNO, I had to sign paperwork affirming that I had not used illegal drugs up that point, and would not as long as I remained in the AFROTC program. The Captain made it quite clear that this was the point of no return, that I could disclose illegal drug use at this point with a minimal penalty, but that if I disclosed use after this point, I would be automatically kicked out of the application process.

Well, that was a nice digression, but I seem to have lost my train of thought...Ah yes, so, if you answer in the affirmative to any of the drug use questions, you would be providing the rope to hang yourself with on that physical sheet. (Oh no, bad metaphor! One of the questions is have I "ever attempted or considered suicide"...have to watch these things, you never know who might be reading!)

Another two questions I found rather absurd are: "bed wetting after age 12?" and "sleepwalking after age 12?" First of all, where did DODMERB get this age 12 cutoff at? You're telling me that if I wet the bed when I was 11, I'm fine, but if I wet it when I was 13, I'm for all intents and purposes out of AFROTC? But hey, that's nothing compared to the Academy. Parents, listen up: if you think your child is a potential USAFA cadet, get their orthodontal work done early. If you don't, and they try to apply to the Academy with any kind of orthodontal problem or active orthodontal work, they could be disqualified from admission for that sole reason.

Even more absurd.

Finally, there is the mandatory rectal exam. In black and white, it is spelled out on the form: "A visual rectal exam is a mandatory DODMERB requirement for both men and women." Why, oh why does the USAF need to know about my rectum? What could possibly interest them about that area of my body? Granted, there is a lot of bullshit that floats around the Air Farce, but I imagine that the officers who produce that have a pet bull that produces it for them; there's no way human beings can produce that much. So stepping outside of that, I honestly can't perceive any rational reason why the USAF needs to know what my rectum looks like. I can understand inspecting for hemorrhoids, but that should be relatively simple. All you need to have me do is sit in a very uncomfortable, non-conforming chair for about 5 minutes. If I start squirming, then you can suspect something. Otherwise, I highly doubt I have that particular medical ailment. Now, I understand that old farts need to have a prostate examination, and this involves the rectal area, but an 18 year old? I think my prostate is just fine, thank you, and don't need anyone examining it.

Anyway, wish me luck in negotiating the pathways of USAF health care bureaucracy: I still need to set up my appointment, get that date to Philadelphia, who will then send it to Colorado, I imagine, who will then pass it on to Alabama. And I'm sure the process will start back again, so the doctor's office can get confirmation. And then once I'm done with the physical, my paperwork will make the long journey from Omaha, to Philadelphia..etc etc.

I love being a part of wasting the tax payer's money!

I believe that it is time for me to conclude this particular post, but before I go, let me say a few things.

First of all, who here feels that Lebanese women are incredibly hot? Especially Lebanese women who are protesting for their freedom. But still, I mean, nothing against Iraqi women or Afghan women, but those Lebanese chicks just got it goin on. I know if I was a Lebanese male, I'd definitely be for freedom, regardless of my personal politics.

Along those lines, something to be on the watch for is an outbreak of violence in Lebanon during the next 24-48 hours. Hezbollah has promised a large number of rallies throughout the country in support of Syria and Assad. Expect Hezbollah's rallies to consist of a lot of angry young Arab Shiite males beating themselves up and cutting themselves with knives while carrying signs of Assad and chanting mindless drivel. Also expect Hezbollah to try and stir up trouble as a result of the Syrian "peacekeeping troops" leaving.

This is one time I suspect I'll be right, but am stridently hoping I am wrong.