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P. Simmons
P. Simmons, Military Lawyer
Category: Military Law
Satisfied Customers: 34735
Experience:  Retired Marine Corps lawyer and Veterans Services Officer (VSO) with 12+ yrs. of experience.
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I have had knee pain since basic training. Im in the "big

Customer Question

I have had knee pain since basic training. I'm in the "big army" now. I started basic on Nov.5 2012. I got an MRI and an X-Ray done on my left knee and both came back normal. The doctor told me he doesn't know what is wrong with me. I am going to see a different doctor tomorrow for a second opinion. If they come back telling me nothing is wrong what do I do? My knee is in constant pain no matter what I am doing, it's all I think about. I have been on profile and can't do any kind of pt or lifting of any kind. I refuse to hurt it more because I don't want to mess it up for the rest of my life. What do I do if they tell me nothing is wrong? If that's the case I want to get out because I don't want to hurt it even worse. How do I go about that?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Military Law
Expert:  P. Simmons replied 4 years ago.
Thanks for the chance to help. I am an attorney with over 12 years military law experience.

The key will be diagnosis...what is the plan (from the medical side) since the MRI/XRay was negative? Do they have any idea what this could be? Is it possibly nerve related (wich may not show up on xray/mri)?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
He said he doesn't know what could be wrong. He said he sees this a lot but I have already tried multiple medications for what he thought it was already and I don't want to take any more kinds of medications because they are not working. He thought it was inflimation at first but there was no fluid shown. Now he is saying its just chronic pain and I should take some other medications. He said its my brain that is saying it hurts, but it has been hurting for quite some time now and I just want to know what it is or find some way to get out before I hurt it even more. Can I refuse taking medications? What will happen if I do?
Expert:  P. Simmons replied 4 years ago.
Ma'am, I hope your new doctor will have more insight for you

While I am not a doctor, I know enough about human anatomy/biology to know that there are many reasons why an individual can experience pain. Not all of the reasons are limited to causes that can be seen on an XRay or MRI

If you have a medical condition that causes you pain and this limits your ability to perform your duties, that can be the basis to be chaptered out of the Army. The basis could be through the MEB process (MEB is medical evaluation board...the process where a soldier is evaluated to determine if their condition was caused by or aggravated by their military service) or it could be through a chapter 5-15 Other designated physical or mental conditions.

But the key for either of these is a diagnosis.

In order to chapter or to separate for a disability (with a MEB) there must first be a diagnosis.

With no diagnosis, the commander (your battalion commander) has nothing to go basis to separate.

It is good you are getting a second opinion

You may want to inquire to your new doctor if your condition may be nerve related, for example Fibromyalgia.

If they diagnosis you with a condition that limits your ability to serve? Then I would expect them to separate you. Again, it will depend on the diagnosis and the cause...if the condition was caused by service, they would perform a MEB. IF the condition predates your service, then a 5-17 chapter is appropriate

What if they can not diagnosis anything? IF you are experiencing pain, I would expect some diagnosis of the condition (again, what you describe may be Fibromyalgia). If the second opinion doctor will not give any may need to ask for a third opinion. Your commander is not going to separate you based on your complaints alone...he or she will require a diagnosis from a physician before they will take steps to separate you.

As for "can they make you take medication"? The answer is no...they can not legally order you to take pain medication. That said, if you refuse to take medication, and as a result you are not able to perform your duties, that can be an independent basis to separate you.

Let me know if you have more questions...happy to assist if I can.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Wow, I absolutely want to thank you for what you have said already and are going to help me with. I went to another doctor today and she said everything is fine with my knee. I told her that my pain worsens with the weather change. I'm in Germany now and the weather is always rainy and dark n cold most of the time and it makes it even more painful so she said "it could be arthritis but that would have showed up on the X-ray" and that was the end of that conversation. I have never had arthritis so I wouldn't know for sure the pain but I feel like I do have it. I have been taking anti inflamitory pills and nothing is helping at all. Now she thinks I could be depressed so now they are prescribing me more inflamitory pills and depression pills. I don't know what else to do. I'm sick of taking all these medications when nothing seems to be working. I'm thinking about getting a third opinion but I'm getting really uneasy about going to all these people just for them to tell me I'm fine and give me more meds. I know my body and I know I'm not making this stuff up. I hate being on profile and not being able to play sports, I love sports. I actually got hurt before because of soccer and I bruised my knee bones and was out in a brace but I hate feeling "disabled" so I'm not sure if I quite let it heal all the way. It hurt since then. But I could take it. I hurt it in basic and feel I have reinjured it but they said everything looks fine. Could that lead to arthritis? Could arthritis not show up? I just don't know what to tell them, they are doctors so they should know but I really am getting very frustrated because I'm telling them it is interfering with my job, it's all I think about, the pain is constantly there. But since there is nothing on the mri and X-ray they feel nothing is wrong. What should I do?
Expert:  P. Simmons replied 4 years ago.
Thank you

I do not know how they detect I do not know if it will show up on an MRI or not. But if you hurt it in basic, and it remains hurt today, that would be a "service connected injury". That is important since this is something that, ultimately, you would be eligible for compensation (money) for after your release from the VA.

The VA will pay veterans compensation for any service related injuries.

But there is still the hurdle of getting you from where you are now, out, with an honorable conditins characterization on your discharge.

This is why that opinion of the second doctor is important.

I would simply spell it out for the second doctor. Let them to their job. If you can not perform your duties, based on this medical condition, it seems clear to me that you have a condition that warrants simply need to make sure the doctor know this is real...not you making it up

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I agree and I have tried and have gotten so frustrated that I could not hold back my tears from the doctor today so she thinks I'm depressed. No it's just that I cannot perform my duties and am on profile because of it, that's not me at all and it hurts to not be able to do what everyone else is doing. I am still on patrol but it aches and gets stiff from being in the patrol car and when I call a walking patrol it hurts because I'm in the vehicle. I don't know how else to be sturn about it. They feel nothing is wrong but I know there is. And I know it's caused by my injury from basic. They want me to go to physical ther. And take these meds but how much longer should I go about this when its not working and what do I do about telling them hey I'm done with these meds. Something is wrong and nothing is helping. What do I ask for or what do I do?
Expert:  P. Simmons replied 4 years ago.
Physical therapy is something you will need to give a chance. As are the meds.

You need to work with the doctors to try and solve it.

Now...if you go through physical therapy and medications and it does not work? Then you may want to seek a 3rd opinion.

Look...lets he frank here.

Unless you have a diagnosis from a doctor of a medical condition, the commander will not separate you.

So you need that diagnosis.

That is why I recommend you go through the physical therapy and drug therapy they recommend. If that does not work? Then complain more and make them take the steps to diagnosis this properly or send you to someone who can

One other option you may want to consider is seeking care outside the military medical system.

Contact your local TRICARE office and they can explain how you can do this...there may be a copay cost (it may cost you some money) but it would allow you to seek out the opinion of a doctor who is not in the military...they may be able to give you some insight that you can take back to military doctors and get them on the right track

At the end of the day, you need a diagnosis...every thing will be tied to that diagnosis...the sooner you can figure this out the better off for you

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Yes I understand. But how long should I continue this physical therapy and medications for? Before I try to contact tricare?
Expert:  P. Simmons replied 4 years ago.

I would go to TRICARE may take several weeks to get an may as we start the process now.



Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I have an appt. with the ortho on Monday. If they tell me nothing is wrong. I want to get out. How would I go about doing that?
Expert:  P. Simmons replied 4 years ago.
I would seek an opinion via another doctor through TRICARE.

If you do not have a medical opinion to support discharge, you are in the same boat as any other soldier who "just wants out"

Not a good place to be...since there is no easy way out.

By design

The Army spent a good deal of time and energy finding and training you...they do not want to let you go early.

It is not easy to get out of the Army. At least, not with a good discharge. The real problem is you have a history now...your commander knows you want the limited ways that you can get out early, with a decent discharge, are going to be that much more difficult no.

If you are pregnant, you can request discharge and that request will be granted.

If you have a deeply held religious belief that prevents your participation in war, you can request conscientious objector status and that would lead to discharge

If you have a close family member suffering a physical or mental hardship and your presence is required you can request a hardship discharge.

That is just about it....

Of course you can commit misconduct and they will toss you out...but that is a bad idea...for many reasons

If ortho says no problem, I would go through TRICARE for another opinion