Court Backs Coast Guard’s Discharge of Obese Man

     (CN) – The Coast Guard does not have to correct the service records of a man discharged for being too fat, the Court of Federal Claims ruled. Judge Edward Damich said the Coast Guard reasonably concluded that weight management was “within his control” and that his obesity was “due to excessive voluntary intake of food and/or drink.”

     James Chapman weighed around 250 pounds and had 32 percent body fat when he was honorably discharged in September 2005 for failing to “maintain reasonable and consistent progress” during his probationary weight-loss period. In April, he had been given six months to shed 70 pounds and 8 percent body fat.
     Chapman asked the Board for Correction of Military Records to vacate the discharge, reinstate him to active duty, or correct his military records so he could retire with 20 years of service. He claimed the Coast Guard “condoned for 19 years his marginal weight performance,” and his commanding officer had unfairly singled him out in his last year of service.
     He had been approved to retire in September 2006.
     The board ruled against him, and Chapman filed a claim under the Military Pay Act.
     He said his commanding officer had used the weight program “in an attempt to remove him” from the Coast Guard for filing grievances. But the claims court found the board’s conclusion “reasonable.”
     “The board’s summary of Mr. Chapman’s record indicates that he had previously been placed on weight probation in 1992, 1993, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003,” the ruling states. “He was warned each time about the possibility of discharge on account of his weight and he achieved compliance through a combination of diet and exercise.”
     Chapman thus appeared to be in control of his weight, despite his claim that he suffered from an eating disorder, the court concluded. Compulsive overeating does not qualify as a physical disability in the military, the ruling states.
     “It was reasonable for the board to conclude logically that, if his excess weight was not due to an underlying medical condition and was not beyond his control, therefore it was due to excessive voluntary intake of food and/or drink,” Judge Edward Damich wrote.

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