Bipolar civilian on a military base overseas?
November 13, 2012 6:45 PM   Subscribe

Will my bipolar (unspecified) interfere with getting a civilian job with the American military overseas?

I have been tentatively accepted for two civilian jobs at two American military bases overseas, one Air Force, one Army, and am filling out a great deal of pre-employment paperwork. Neither job is classified or specialized -- pretty ordinary civilian work, focused on customer relations and working with young children, respectively. I was diagnosed with bipolar (unspecified, non-psychotic, hypomania-not-mania) a couple years ago by my general practitioner and am taking medication for it that works supremely well (lamotrogine). While bipolar disorder is not interfering with my life the way it did once, I am concerned that it may interfere with me gaining employment with the Department of Defense, if only as a civilian.

I do not currently have all the paperwork information for the Army Job, but part of my pre-employment paperwork for the Air Force job includes "Self-Identification of Handicap" and "Statement of Physical Ability". In the first, I fit the bill for "Psychiatric Disability" and would have to fill in the appropriate code. In the second, it asks if I take prescription medication and to "give additional details" in a later section. I am extremely hesitant to be catty about information instead of just saying "lamotrogine, dosage, bipolar-unspecified" -- generally, lamotrogine is only prescribed in the case of epilepsy, seizures, or bipolar disorder, and I am supposed to fill out the paperwork to the best of my knowledge. I am unaware what my rights in this situation even are. I signed a release for the Army job to investigate my psychiatric background (I can't find the form), and while they seemed more concerned about alcoholism I imagine that my bipolar disorder will turn up. I may have to do something similar for the Air Force job.

So: what can I expect? How should I fill out the paperwork? Will not being forthright do more damage than being forthright? Should I start packing my bags already?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (5 answers total)
I'd be as honest as possible. The real concern is basically "will you have trouble getting your drug in the country in which you're stationed". Not knowing how common lamotrogine is or where you're going to be stationed, I can't really say for sure, but that's the part that needs to be cleared before they hire you.
posted by Oktober at 7:03 PM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

There are so many people on anti-depressants, that I can't imagine that it would be a problem. I know a few people with secret clearances that are on meds.
posted by empath at 7:27 PM on November 13, 2012

Don't lie. You say you don't need a clearance, so they won't do much digging, but lying will get you into more trouble than the truth could. If a later position required a clearance, this stuff could easily come up and you'd be hosed.

I wouldn't pack my bags because it takes DOD personnel offices forever to do anything, not because of your medical issue.

Maybe look for the EEO office at the nearest Army/Air Force location and call them up regarding your rights in this specific situation. Or figure out what union represents your potential workplace and contact them. You're not represented by either of these offices yet, but they might be helpful pointing you to the right resources.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 8:24 PM on November 13, 2012

This probably something to not be overly concerned about. Psychiatric disabilities do not categorically prohibit employment. I believe that most they can do is ask your doctor if your disabilities prevent you in anyway from being able to carry out the duties and responsibilities of the job position. If the answer is "no"- the condition is not an impairment- then legally they cannot discriminate based on your disclosure. That is my understanding of the hiring policy.
posted by incolorinred at 8:57 PM on November 13, 2012

Another question to ask is whether this is a good job for you, considering your bipolar. Is stress a trigger? Will being overseas, doing this job, affect that?

But yeah, the best way to proceed is to be honest. It would stink if you don't get the job because of it. But it would stink worse to get it, move overseas, and *then* lose the job.
posted by gjc at 5:31 AM on November 14, 2012

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