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Issue 548 – October 31, 2017

Hi Andy,

My Eagle Scout son earned a total of 51 merit badges. That’s 30 beyond the 21 for Eagle rank. So how does he pin six (!) palms on the ribbon of his medal? (Lynne Ghwieny)

That’s an easy one… He actually doesn’t wear six palms; he wears three: one silver, representing fifteen merit badges; one gold, representing ten; and one bronze for five. Simple!
Hi Andy,

We’ll be paying registration for the coming year, which includes $33 for registration plus $1 for insurance. Is that one dollar for insurance under a local council insurance policy, or is this a BSA national insurance policy?

Related to this (sort of), for a Scout whose parent or parents have health/medical insurance that covers him as well, if he’s injured at a Scouting event does the BSA policy cover anything over his family policy? (Ben Hayes)

I could guess, but then the best odds I’m correct are 50:50, so I’d say you’re better off directing that $1 insurance question to your council’s registrar, or your DE.

As for a Scout injury situation, I’m told that the BSA coverage comes into the picture once personal insurance has been exhausted.
Dear Andy,

I’m the advancement chair for our troop. About six months ago, a Scout from another now defunct troop joined up with us and expressed his ambition to reach Eagle Scout rank. In fact, one of the key reasons he transferred was because his original troop, at the time, had been largely inactive (no regular, ongoing outdoor activities, for instance). That troop also was pretty lax in advancement record-keeping. When he joined us, he said he’d earned many of the Eagle-required merit badges, but he couldn’t verify this; he had no paperwork, badges, or even “blue cards.” This Scout also told me that he’d earned First Class rank, but there are no “boxes” checked off in his handbook—no dates or initials anywhere!

I reached out to his former Scoutmaster, who told me he’ll find the paperwork and turn it over to me, but I haven’t heard back from him for six straight months despite regular phone calls and emails to him on my part.

We and our new Scout are now running out of time. He needs to have his Life rank Scoutmaster conference and board of review as soon as possible or there won’t be enough time left before his 18th birthday.

Can we do these without verification that he completed First Class rank? And how do we handle the merit badges he says he has when the typical “paper trail” is nonexistent? Is there a work-around? Any guidance you can offer would be really appreciated! (Name & Council Withheld)

Believe-it-or-not, the BSA GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT looks to be silent on this sort of situation. (Rats!)

For ranks and merit badges too, when they’re earned the troop’s advancement coordinator is expected to file a unit Advancement Report ( with the council service center, retaining one of the three pages (the pink one) for the troop’s own records. If this Scout’s former Scoutmaster has been non-responsive after six months, it’s high time someone reaches out to the council service center to see if any past advancement reports from his prior troop exist (in a “perfect world,” this will make the problem go away, right away).

You can also ask your District Executive or the council’s Registrar for the names and contact information of all previous adult volunteers in that troop and then reach out to the Committee Chair, and other committee members if necessary, to track down who the troop’s advancement coordinator (or “chair”) was, and then follow up with this person. (Technically speaking, rank badges and, to some extent, merit badges can’t be purchased without having submitted an advancement report; so unless the council’s Scout shop is pretty lax themselves, there should be some sort of record, somewhere.)

That said, and I hope it helps, we also need to recognize that the Scout himself plays a significant role in record-keeping. For ranks, certainly there should be a record in his own handbook and he may also have received his rank “pocket cards” at either troop meeting or courts of honor (although that’s not what courts of honor are for). As for merit badges, in the absence of similar pocket cards, the Scout should have the middle segment of his “blue card”—the one titled “Applicant’s Record”—that will show the name of the merit badge, date completed, and the signatures of his Counselor and his Scoutmaster.

If, for some reason, this Scout doesn’t have his own blue card segments, the next best process to follow is for him to track down and contact his previous Counselors and request a copy of the “Counselor’s Record”—the third segment of the blue card, which all Counselors are expected to retain for their own records. The council or district can provide a list of all registered merit badge counselors, and this should help him jog his memory.

Now I have a question for you (or this Scout)… In order to hold a board of review for Life rank, he needs to have been a Star for at least six (6) months, and, going further back, the tenure between First Class and Star is four (4) months. This means that unless he earned First Class no later than last December 2016, and earned Star in April 2017, it’s unlikely that he qualifies for a Life board of review. So what happened here? Is he First Class, or is he Star rank?

Finally (for the moment), let’s remember that a Scoutmaster conference definitely doesn’t need to be the very last requirement completed before a Scout’s rank board of review. The GTA-Topic states: “…it is not required that [the conference] be the last step before the board of review.” The conference can be held at any time, from the time the Scout starts toward his next rank up to just prior to the board of review for that rank.

Based on what you’ve told me, these points are as far as I can take this issue at the moment. If you have more information to share, or further questions, I’d be happy to tackle these in a further conversation.
Hello Andy,

I do know that all rank requirements for Eagle except the board of review must be completed prior to a Scout’s 18th birthday, would that include the signatures certifying that the project was completed?

Also, I thought that the window for getting the Eagle rank application submitted was 90 days; however, the GTA is rather vague as to any deadlines.

Any light on these subjects would be appreciated. Thanks! (Josef Rosenfeld, SM, Westchester-Putnam Council, NY)

There are several Eagle items that aren’t demanded on or before a Life Scout’s 18th birthday. As you noted, his board of review is one of these. The other one is the “statement of your ambitions and life purpose and a listing of positions held in your religious institution, school, camp, community, or other organizations, during which you demonstrated leadership skills. Include honors and awards received during this service“… commonly called, simply, the “Life Statement.” All other stated requirements do need to be completed by a Scout’s 18th birthday.

For projects, if you go to page 24 (Project Report Page C) of the Eagle Service Project Workbook, you’ll observe that, while dates of the three signatures—the Scout’s, Beneficiary’s, and Unit Leader’s—are asked for, there’s nothing in these three signature blocks (or anywhere else!) that says these signatures were written on or prior to the magical 18th birthday. That’s because the report itself isn’t considered a part of the project itself: It’s, in effect, a “post-action” report and can be written and signed without regard to an 18th birthday. What definitely is important is on the cover page of the Project Report: The blocks that ask for start and completion dates. The actual “work” (but not the writing) must indeed be completed by that birthday deadline and this is where that’s affirmed.

There’s no “90 day” or any other deadline rule for when a Scout writes or gets the signatures for his project report. However, life can be lumpy sometimes and a Scout would be very foolish if he delays his report more than a week or so at the very most. (What happens when a beneficiary moves, changes jobs, or–God forbid–dies in the interim? Now the Scout has a real mess on his hands! So time is of the essence here, from a practical standpoint.)

The “90 day” rule (actually it’s “three months”) is the first part of a series of timings when it comes to when his Eagle board of review is held, and you can find the details on this in the GTA, Topic “Eagle Scout Board of Review Beyond the 18th Birthday.”

Happy Scouting!


Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Just to me at: Please include your name and council. (If you’d prefer to be anonymous, if published, let me know and that’s what we’ll do.)

[No. 548 – 10/31/2017 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2017]


About AskAndy

Andy is a Board Member of the U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.

Andy has just received notification by his council Scout Executive that he is to be recognized as a National Distinguished Eagle Scout. He is currently serving as a Unit Commissioner and his council's International Representative. He has previously served in a number of other Scouting roles including Assistant Council Commissioner, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Den Leader, and--as a Scout--Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. His awards include: Kashafa Iraqi Scouting Service Award, Distinguished Commissioner, Doctor of Commissioner Science, International Scouter Award, District Award of Merit (2), Scoutmaster Award of Merit, Scouter's Key (3), Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award, Cliff Dochterman Rotarian Scouter Award, James E. West Fellow (2), Wood Badge & Sea Badge, and Eagle Scout & Explorer Silver Award.

Read Andy's full biography

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