On Feb. 23, 2018, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein announced that he has Bell's palsy, a form of temporary facial paralysis resulting from damage or trauma to the facial nerves. In his speech to airmen at the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium, he reassured the group that the condition was reversible and he would continue to serve as chief of staff.
"I woke up last Saturday morning with half of my face completely frozen, and it turns out it's this thing called Bell's palsy. So here's the good news: It's fully recoverable, I'm on the mend, and it only hurts you when I laugh," he joked.
Goldfein is certainly not the first service member to be diagnosed with the condition — General Curtis LeMay, another Chief of Staff of the Air Force, reportedly had Bell's palsy. While every military medical waiver is made on a case-by-case basis, service members with Bell's palsy have a good record of receiving those waivers.
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody congratulates Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein after the general swore in during a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., June 1, 2016. Goldfein is the 21st Chief of Staff of the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Andy Morataya)
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the prognosis for individuals with Bell's palsy — roughly 40,000 Americans each year — is generally very good. Some cases are mild and subside on their own while others require various treatments, including medication and other therapeutic options.
With few exceptions, the condition does not appear to prevent service members from deploying indefinitely and therefore should not subject them to the Pentagon's recent policy update on military lethality.
Goldfein, with jokes and light-hearted humor, reassured troops that he was optimistic about his prognosis and eager to continue to serve.