KIRO Team 7 Investigators have an update to a story that first aired last November exposing how the military spent $363,000,000 in nine years on gastric bypass, lap-band and tummy tuck surgeries.
KIRO-TV reporting partners at WSB-TV Atlanta saw the Team 7 Investigation and turned to their attention to local Army recruiters in Georgia.
Unlike Washington law, Georgia law allows a reporter to record a conversation without the other person’s consent.
WSB recorded military recruiters in Georgia speaking candidly about how to get cosmetic surgery even though taxpayers aren’t supposed to be paying for the procedures for Army personnel or their families.
In one video, an undercover WSB journalist asks a recruiter if there were, “any restrictions on medical coverage.” The recruiter responds with “nope.”
When pressed further and asked specifically about cosmetic surgery, the recruiter said, "I heard it’s one cosmetic per enlistment. So, let’s say you need to get your breasts done, you want to get big boobies, you can get that done."
The recruiter went on to explain that, "the trick to getting (the military) to pay for cosmetic surgery" is to "prove a medical reason for it."
What the recruiters didn't say was that in 2007, the Army banned active duty troops from getting gastric bypass under any circumstance and that cosmetic surgery has never been condoned.
"Absolutely not, if you’ve had bariatric surgery, you can’t get into the Army, and if you are in the Army and go outside and get it, then they medically separate you," said Lt. Col. Dr. Jim Sebesta.
Sebesta has performed hundreds of weight loss surgeries at Madigan Army Hospital; mostly, for soldiers wives.
He told us last year he's a proponent of gastric bypass for certain, qualifying obese patients in military families but not for purely cosmetic reasons.
"For us, we change lives. We take somebody who can’t function, can’t exercise, can’t play with their daughter because they’re obese, and we give them the ability to do all those things again," said Sebesta.
The Army recruiters in Georgia made promises about the availability of cosmetic surgery that weren’t entirely true. But KIRO Team 7 Investigators did speak with a number of Army and Navy wives who said it's easy to manipulate doctors and get free breast enlargements, nose jobs and gastric bypass surgery.
Meanwhile, when asked about the conversations WSB recorded inside military recruitment centers, an Army spokesperson at Fort Benning said, "We’ve never heard of it." They did not elaborate.