Airmen require approval for cosmetic surgery

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. A.C. Eggman
  • 35th Fighter Wing public affairs
Air Force military members may face legal problems with the military and medical community if they choose to obtain elective cosmetic surgery without the medical commander's prior approval, according to AFI-44-102.

"We have had two active-duty members have surgery while on leave without approval," stated Col. Mary Armour, 35th Medical Group commander in an e-mail to base personnel. "Both of whom will need extensive repair and follow up from botched procedures and infection."

The colonel also went on to state the cost of repairing the damage, subsequent travel, and time away from work can be at the member's expense.

Air Force doctors perform cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries to maintain their skills, but elective cosmetic procedures such as tummy tucks and liposuction are not routinely available as perks to servicemembers and their families, according to Air Force Medical Service officials.

"This does not include reconstructive surgery related to trauma, burns or disease," said Col. (Dr.) David Blake, 35th MDG deputy commander and general surgeon.

Cosmetic surgery is surgery performed to improve the one's appearance. Reconstructive surgery restores to normal the function and or appearance of an abnormal part of the body, whether the defect is from trauma, cancer, congenital deformity, etc. Reconstructive surgery often requires the use of cosmetic surgery techniques to improve appearances of servicemembers who are injured or disfigured as a result of combat, an accident or other conditions.

Published reports in civilian media in the last few years have suggested that elective procedures are prevalent in the military health-care system. Air Force doctors and their counterparts across the Department of Defense do perform elective cosmetic surgeries, but not to the extent or for the reasons reported by the civilian media, according to the Air Force Medical Service reports. There are strict guidelines and policies in place to govern this aspect of the military health-care system.

Because Airmen must meet strict eligibility requirements for the military to perform elective cosmetic procedures, some military members have been taking leave and opting to go to other countries that charge less, but may not meet health standards of practice, said Colonel Blake.

Getting prior approval through the medical group, " ensures quality medical service is provided to the member and ensures a fit fighting force," said Colonel Blake.

If a member chooses not to go through proper channels and complications do arise, the medical community will take care of them, Doctor Blake said. "However, there may be repercussions that may have an impact to the member's career such as a line of duty determination, which can cost the military member thousands of dollars to temporary retirement or even a permanent separation."

For more information about elective cosmetic surgery and options available, military and family members are encouraged to talk with their primary care manager.