Diabetic soldier gets the help he needs.


After 14 years in the Army, Eric Martin was 18 months from separating when he was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes.

“I was having symptoms, and diabetes runs thick in my family, so I got checked out,” said Martin.

Within a matter of months, Martin went from taking pills, to insulin before bed, to having an insulin pump installed for constant regulation.

Before Martin separated, he went to see Sharon Wilkin, a VFW National Pre-Discharge Claims Representative at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Given the severity of his condition, Wilkin couldn’t believe Martin wasn’t being taken through the Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) process.

“A lot of times when the Army knows you’re about to separate, they just want you to GO,” said Wilkin. “It makes me wonder how many other soldiers with chronic conditions are pushed out the door when they shouldn’t be.”

Wilkin spoke to a doctor, who agreed that Martin’s condition must be further evaluated by the Army. With the added pressure from Wilkin, the Army admitted Martin to the MEB process.

With this process came several benefits for Martin, including an opportunity to participate in vocational rehab, which allowed him to study as a heating and cooling technician. It also allowed him to remain on active duty so he could continue receiving a paycheck while he focused on his health. 

“The process gave me an extra year to train for and find a job and get my VA benefits squared away,” said Martin, who received a 20% disability rating from the VA.

Martin was not medically retired as Wilkin had hoped, but he was “medically separated” and awarded a severance package.

“The main win here is that Eric was given a seamless transition out of the military,” said Wilkin. “Typically there is a lag in between leaving the military and enrolling in VA health care. Because he went through the MEB process, he received VA medical care the minute he left active duty status. This is so important because, with his condition, missing just one day of treatment could be devastating.”

Martin is grateful to Wilkin for stepping in when he needed her most.

“Sharon explained everything in a way that my wife and I could understand,” said Martin. “She really made this whole process a lot easier on us. She really had my back, and I thank her for that.”

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