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Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Boob Jobs at the Barracks

While its investigation into the Cheney-Leahy conflict is getting lots of linkage around the blogosphere, another New Yorker article this week pertains more directly to our country's efforts in the War on Terror. In order to keep up adequate military recruitment, it turns out, soldiers get free cosmetic surgery:

"Anyone wearing a uniform is eligible," Dr. Bob Lyons, the chief of plastic surgery at Brooke Army Medical Center, said recently, in his office in San Antonio. It is true: personnel in all four branches of the military and members of their immediate families can get face-lifts, nose jobs, breast enlargements, liposuction, or any other kind of elective cosmetic alteration, at taxpayer expense. (For breast enlargements, patients must supply their own implants.) There is no limit on the number of cosmetic surgeries one soldier can have, although, Lyons said, "we don't do extreme makeovers in the military." The commanding officer has to approve the time off for any soldier who is having surgery. For most procedures, there's at least a ten-day recovery period, and while soldiers are recuperating they're on paid medical leave rather than vacation.

The article goes on to discredit the government's stated rationale that military surgeons need practice for the real reconstructive surgery they do on wounded soldiers; it turns out cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries are sufficiently different, according to a quoted expert. (At least they didn't try to claim that giving someone a nose job makes him more effective at defeating terrorists. And I'm curious how someone who needs liposuction could keep up with the physical toll of military workouts to begin with.)

It looks like this is really a policy to avoid reinstating the draft:

There has been talk lately among soldiers that this benefit is indeed being used as a recruiting tool, but there is no mention of it in any of the recruiting literature. "The Army does not offer elective cosmetic surgery to entice anyone," Dr. Lyons said. "I would be disappointed with the maturity of the young women in this country if they're joining the service with the thought of getting breast augmentations."

Well, that certainly gives new meaning to "be all that you can be" (the article headline riffs on this, along with the subhead "Chest out, Stomach in").