After Denying Coverage, Reserve Reconsiders Heart Attack Case

The Morgan Family (Photo: Katie Smith, courtesy of Jaime Morgan)
The Morgan Family (Photo: Katie Smith, courtesy of Jaime Morgan)

The Army Reserve has reopened an investigation into whether a reservist's heart attack during a PT test should be considered "in the line of duty" and the medical bills paid by the government, a family member said.

Army Reserve Capt. Shane Morgan had a heart attack during his PT test in November 2015. But a line-of-duty investigation completed early this month by the Army determined that it was not triggered by the test, so the Army will not pay the medical bills.

That has left Morgan and his spouse, Jaime, with $10,000 in medical costs, including the ambulance fee, after private insurance through Morgan's civilian employer kicked in.

But a media campaign by the family to highlight what they say is the Army's incorrect conclusion about the cause of the heart attack has led the service's investigation to be reopened, Jaime Morgan said.

"They're playing with people's lives," she said. "Shane had a heart attack just about a year ago now, and the ambulance bill has not been paid yet. It's been frustrating."

Morgan is assigned to the North East Cyber Protection Center and did his PT test at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, his wife said.

Army Reserve officials, citing privacy rules, said they cannot confirm whether any investigation into Morgan's heart attack has been reopened.

"The Army Privacy Act Program prohibits us from discussing a soldier's medical history or medical records," said Maj. Adam Jackson, an Army Reserve spokesman. "However, the physical and financial well-being of our soldiers and their families is a top concern for Army and Army Reserve leaders at all levels. We take all line of duty investigations seriously and will take all possible steps to ensure they are completed accurately and in a timely manner."

The line of duty investigation findings, shared with Military.com by Jaime Morgan, stated that although Morgan's heart attack occurred during the PT test, it was not caused by the test.

"The mere fact that the soldier was in an 'authorized status' does not support a determination of 'line of duty' in and of itself," states the document, signed by Michelle Palmer, chief of the Reserve's health branch services. "There is a chance this may have occurred in or out of duty status."

Supporting that finding, Palmer notes in the document, was an abnormal blood test result two months before the incident.

But Jaime Morgan said a blood test done the day of the heart attack was normal. And the investigation's finding that Morgan's heart attack was not caused by his service ignores the fact that his heart problems could have started during his 10 years of active duty in the Army and Coast Guard.

Jaime Morgan said they won't stop fighting the ruling until it is reversed and the bills are paid by the military.

"This has been a horrible year, and I'm done. Your husband had a 'widowmaker' heart attack and you're just grateful he survived," she said. "I want the Army to know I am serious, and they will fix this or I will continue to fight."

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.

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