Capt. Shane Morgan was getting over bronchitis, but he felt pretty good the morning of his PT test last November. By 15 push-ups, he was starting to feel beyond terrible.
Morgan was suffering from a heart attack, and, following a line-of-duty investigation, the Army has determined that the Army Physical Fitness Test didn't trigger it, leaving the Army Reserve officer with upwards of $30,000 in medical bills.
"It's literally a miracle he survived," his wife, Jaime, told Army Times.
Now, both Morgan's Army and civilian careers are in jeopardy because, nearly a year later, the bills are damaging his credit -- which could affect his top secret security clearance.
"I've already been sent to collections for a $889 bill, and there are more to come," he said in a phone interview, including a $2,000 ambulance bill that he said he has submitted to Tricare three times.
Morgan is telling his story, he said, because he wants the Army to overturn his LOD investigation, and he wants any other soldiers who've been through the same thing to know that they have options.
Line-of-duty investigations are used when service members become ill or injured, to determine whether they are at fault due to their own negligence or misconduct. Depending on the severity of the illness or accident, soldiers can be formally disciplined, or it can affect their discharges and benefits if they are determined no longer fit for duty.
Morgan said he was surprised that his chain of command initiated an LOD at all, and though the Army didn't rule in his favor, they did not accuse him of misconduct or negligence.
His case is getting attention up his chain of command, he added. He got a call on Wednesday from his outgoing commanding officer at the 335th Signal Command informing him that Maj. Gen. David Conboy, the deputy commander of the Reserve, was aware of his case and looking into it.
A Reserve spokesman declined to comment on the case, but confirmed that Morgan is an information systems management officer assigned to Army Reserve Cyber Operations Group Northeast at Fort Devens, Massachusetts.
During the week, he works on classified projects at BAE Systems in New Hampshire, Morgan said, adding that he's had to report his collections status to his employer.
"This could affect my security clearance, which could affect my ability to do my job," he said.
'They don't have my back'
Morgan's ambulance ride, two-day hospital stay and follow-up care racked up $115,000 in bills in the past year, he said. During that time, his command was also carrying out an investigation to determine whether the Army would foot all of those bills.
On Oct. 5, his wife said, they were notified that his heart attack would be treated as outside the line of duty.
Morgan received the official paperwork a week later, he said, and from what he understands, it means that Tricare is done paying for his care.
According to the determination, which Morgan's wife provided to Army Times, the heart attack was ruled out of the line of duty because it falls into a grey area.
"Based on what is provided for supporting medical documents, it is clear you had a heart attack, but this type of blockage of the artery does not occur solely during or while performing of the Army Physical Fitness Test," it said. "The mere fact that the soldier was in an 'authorized status' does not support a determination of 'in Line of Duty' in and of itself."
The Army reviewed Morgan's most recent health assessment, from Sept. 2015, and found that some of his blood work was abnormal.
But on the day of the event, Morgan said, his blood work was normal when he was admitted to the hospital.
"No, I'm not in good shape, and I wasn't in good shape," he said. "But I was in good enough shape to pass the Army PT test."
He's never failed a PT test in three years as a reservist, three years of active duty and another six in the Coast Guard before that, he said.
Still, the heart attack is probably going to cost him his career, Morgan said, and he wants to make sure that he's taken care of once he's out.
"I love the Army and I'm probably not going to get to continue it," he said, once he goes through a physical evaluation or medical board.
The difference is, a heart attack in the line of duty would assure that his bills are paid, he's able to complete cardiac rehabilitation therapy, and he has access to VA benefits.
"It's time to walk the talk. Take care of your soldiers," he said. "The Army is telling me they don't have my back. That's what it feels like."
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.