Flat Feet Won’t Help

July 24, 2013
Second-degree flat feet is removed from the list of diseases enabling exemption from military service. | Eduard Kornienko/Reuters

The Defense Ministry is preparing a new offensive on irresponsible young people who shirk military duty. The government has drafted a decree devoted to the new rules for medical examination of recruits, and the General Staff reports that it is developing a new procedure for delivering draft notices. Experts are mixed in their assessment of the initiatives.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev approved the regulation on military medical examinations prepared at the Defense Ministry. The text of the document is published on the government’s web site.

The new decree with an amended list of medical exemptions from the draft will go into force on 1 January 2014.

As the notice attached to the text explains, since the regulations on military medical examinations went into effect on 25 February 2003, “significant changes have occurred in medical science and practice and new medical technologies have been introduced.” “In that same period, the principles for formation of troops have changed, and new forms of weapons and military technology have been incorporated which require an improvement in the approaches to organization and conduct of military medical examinations,” the authors of the new measures emphasize.

Aleksandr Fisun, head of the Main Military Medical Directorate of the Defense Ministry, in his commentary for Rossiyskaya Gazeta, characterized the new rules for medical certification of draftees as “fairly tough”: in the old list there were 93 diagnoses which exempted or limited military service, but in the new one there are 88 items. In particular, the chief military physician of the country clarified that health requirements of draftees have been somewhat softened, for example, in the degree to which compromise of hearing and sight can be corrected.

Vladimir Trignin, chairman of the military collegium of lawyers, explained to Gazeta.ru that the more substantive changes in the regulations regarding military medical examinations concern young people with high blood pressure and flat feet. According to Trignin, illnesses related to locomotion and high blood pressure compete for first place in the regions in the number of cases of those exempted from the draft for these reasons.

“As for high blood pressure, here the requirements, on the contrary, are going to get more tough,” Trignin explained.

“Before, there was a borderline status for high blood pressure; a person with this condition was given category B (fit for service with some restrictions). Now such a stage of the disease has been removed, and draftees with high blood pressure are likely to get an exemption.”

This article of the regulation, according to the expert, seriously increases the number of those applying for category D at the medical commission – “unfit for military service.”

On the other hand, young people with the diagnosis “second degree flat feet” are now acknowledged fit for military service with restrictions in category B.

“Now, many of these young people will go and serve,” the lawyer explained. “But that does not concern those who have a draft card already and those who will receive it before the end of 2013.”

Valentina Melnikova, head of the Union of Soldiers’ Mothers and a member of the public council of the Defense Ministry is outraged at the “absurd” changes.

“Second-degree flat feet with second-degree arthrosis is an illness that accompanies deformation of the spine. This will not lead to anything good except gangrene,” believes Melnikova. “These guys will simply be unable to wear ankle boots, they will simply go to the hospital. This is really the legal prospect.”
Igor Korotchenko, editor of the journal Natsional’naya Oborona [National Defense], another member of the Defense Ministry’s public council, supports the removal of flat feet from the list of diseases enabling exemption from the draft.

“Such a soldier can perform service, for example, as a radio telegraph operator or a radar operator. No flat feet would interfere with this,” believes Korotchenko. “In fact, positive movements are occurring now in the army which began even under the previous minister and are continuing under this one. Recruits only have to serve a year. The food is better, and they have introduced buffet tables.”
“I believe that if you can drive an automobile you can serve in the army if you are not disabled,” emphasized Korotchenko.

On the other hand, as the authors of the new document note, besides the increase in the number of draftees from among those with flat feet, remote medical certification of disabled children of group I, or who have group II or III without a term of re-certification, is being introduced for the first time.
For these people, it is sufficient to supply the relevant medical documents at the local draft board instead of undergoing examination. Moreover, the draftee pronounced fit for service with restrictions will not have the right to a repeat certification to change his category if as a result of examination in medical facilities, a diagnosis previously established was changed or reviewed or if he was pronounced healthy.

The document also establishes the procedure for medical examination and certification of those going through alternative civilian service and military training.

In order to reduce the risk of the spread of venereal diseases and hepatitis B and C, compulsory tests will be introduced for these diseases for recruits.

A source close to the General Staff told Interfax on 9 July that the drafting by military of the new procedure for delivery of draft notices was to prevent evasion of military service. “The idea is to hand the notice to youths of draft age at draft boards simultaneously with the issuance of the so-called registration certificate when the recruit is first entered to the draft list at the age of 17 and receives the ‘Identification for a Citizen Subject to Draft to Military Service,’ says the source.

In the opinion of the military, now the “draft-dodgers” are refusing to receive the notice which confirms the fact of their notification of the summons to the draft board. Thus they avoid both service in the army and a formal reason for criminal prosecution for refusing the draft. According to the General Staff’s figures, at the present time, there are about 250,000 citizens of draft age who have taken advantage of this loophole to avoid military service.

The new mechanism for notification to draftees, noted the source, does not require incorporating amendments to the federal law “On military duty and military service.” The notices will be handed to the persons of draft age in accordance with internal orders of the Defense Ministry.

According to the source, the creation of this procedure for notification is related to the fact that the Russian government set aside a controversial draft law prepared last year in the Federation Council together with the Defense Ministry and requiring youths of draft age to personally appear at the local divisions of the draft board. Within a two-week period after the publication of the presidential decree on draft to the armed services, draftees were proposed to have a compulsory requirement to appear themselves and sign for the receipt of their draft notice. As for those who did not do this, the authors of the draft law were prepared to register them as draft-dodgers with the prospect of criminal prosecution.

Trignin told Gazeta.ru that such a practice already exists. “There is nothing new here. Now they already hand out the summonses along with the notice of exemption for studies,” Trignin explained. Melnikova, leader of the soldiers’ mothers does not see in this proposal an additional threat to those who wish to avoid service.

“What’s dangerous is that some group of comrades around the Defense Ministry or around the Kremlin have appeared who believe that in order to fill up the barracks, all means are good. Article 20 (in the list of diseases approved in the government regulations—Gazeta.ru) is provided for these people which exempts one from service – ‘mental deficiency with mild disability,’” the human rights advocate explained her position to Gazeta.ru.