I've been feeling under the weather for the better part of a week, a state of affairs that has encouraged me to ponder the benefits attendant to my position in an unsanitary war zone. Let me being by admitting that this was my first 'big kid' job following college and grad school. In addition to offering a living wage, it also marked the first time I could claim my own benefits independent of my parents, after almost a year of living without - I watched the health care debate closely and was very much in favour of Obama and his death panels if it meant I would have coverage until I was 26. The coverage offered by my company includes all the standards - medical, dental, eye, etc. On top of that, however, I have complimentary life insurance and so-called catastrophic coverage through Aflac. They even gave me a duck!
Simply put, the perks of the job were all terrifically exciting, so much so that it seemed worth compromising my morals to be a dirty war profiteer for a year. After all, my plan was (and remains) to parlay this experience into an entry-level position in the NGO sector and spend the rest of my life redeeming myself while making dirt. In executing this plan, I was slightly miffed by the out-of-pocket expenses, including several medical appointment with my OBGYN, dentist, and the like, to prove I was deployable, and therefore hirable. Somewhat counter-intuitive, but no worries, I was game. However, now that I find myself a bit below par in theatre, I've had to question the wisdom of my decision.
I am not seriously ill, knock on wood, but it turns out that I am not entitled to any basic medical services. Indeed, while in theatre, I am only afforded the ominously termed 'resurrection care' in the event that I'm in imminent danger of losing life, limb, or eye sight. Otherwise, I have to cowboy up and work through the hacking cough and high fever. If I get too sickly and miss work for more than three days, they will ship me home on medical leave. How's that for a raw deal? Moreover, it seems remarkably inefficient and not at all cost effective. Would it not be preferable to just see me and dole out any necessary meds in-country, rather than waster the time, energy, and cost of sending me back to CONUS? Worst comes to worst, I suppose that I could take my chances and just pop out to the French Hospital in Kabul. That's not a force protection issue, right?
Upon further reflection, the situation starts to seem more reasonable. The life, limb, and eyesight services afforded by the military will most likely apply in the event of an emergency, say being struck by shrapnel from an IED or RPG, yes? Such are the eventualities one would want to be prepared for when going to a war zone, and it turns out my company isn't. All that loverly insurance they gave me, and it explicitly does not cover acts of war. Search me for what constitutes 'catastrophic' coverage, then. Thus, if the US government is willing to fill this niche, who am I to complain that they won't treat a runny nose?
So, just to re-cap, if I get strep, I'll get shipped back State-side for treatment, but if I get blown up, I'll be patched up at the base clinic and then be on my own. I kind of love such zany logic.