There are many specific medical conditions that may disqualify you from joining the U.S. Military. These include conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, epilepsy, heart issues, Asperger’s, and PTSD.
If you struggle with any of the conditions mentioned below, it is a good idea to speak with a local U.S. Military recruiter. They can provide more specifics regarding the condition, and whether or not you’ll pass your medical exam at MEPS.
In general, the U.S. Armed Forces tries to support people from all backgrounds with a variety of conditions. They realize that no one is perfect, and we all have issues.
It is always their ultimate goal to help you enlist if you want to join the military.
With that said, the U.S. Military still needs to exercise caution if the condition may put you, or others in harmful (or even potentially fatal) situations.
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20 Medical Conditions Affecting Military Service
Are there any conditions or illnesses that automatically disqualify you from service? What about a condition that may make it more difficult to enlist yet does not immediately disqualify a person?
Here are the answers to some of the most common physical or mental conditions that the U.S. Military takes into consideration…
Condition #1 – Depression (Possibly Disqualifying)
Since the U.S. Armed Forces deal with arming individuals with powerful weapons it must tread on mental health very carefully. Though people with mental health concerns are very good people that are still capable of living high-quality lives, the U.S. Military is very strict on how it handles mood disorders.
Mood disorders including depression and other mental health conditions like bipolar disorder and PTSD are disqualifying medical conditions according to the military.
It means that if you or someone you know that is considering enlisting in the U.S. Military has been diagnosed with it in the past, it may be difficult to join.
Types of depression that may affect military service include:
- Major depressive disorder
- Persistent Depressive Disorder
- Atypical Depression
- Situational Depression
All of these will be discussed with your doctor at MEPS.
The military closely studies the history of mood disorders that require prescription medication and/or outpatient care that was longer than six months. Medical examinations are able to provide some discretion as to if the person is considered mentally stable enough to be a responsible member of the U.S. Armed Forces.
If the symptoms of the mood disorder have impacted social ability, school, learning, or work efficiency in the past then it will likely disqualify service.
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Condition # 2 – Bipolar disorder (Disqualifying)
Bipolar disorder is another mood disorder that falls within the same parameters as depression.
Consequently, anyone that has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder is not authorized to join the United States Military.
These include all types of Bipolar, including Bipolar I, II, Cyclothymic disorder, and “mixed features”.
Along with checking for a record of prescription medications and the aforementioned outpatient treatment for more than six months, the U.S. government will also check for a current history of adjustment disorders within the previous three months prior to enlisting.
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Condition #3 – Herpes (Likely NOT Disqualifying)
Herpes simplex viruses can be divided up into 2 categories:
HSV-1: Oral herpes (type 1 – NOT disqualifying)
HSV-2: Genital herpes (type 2 – likely NOT disqualifying)
Generally speaking, Type 2 Herpes is the only one that is characterized as a sexually transmitted disease (STD). In the past, the U.S. Military has taken a cautionary stance on STDs.
The U.S. Armed Forces do not have an official policy on herpes. It is assumed that for the most part, it is not a factor in discharging you from the military, or preventing getting enlisted because of it.
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Condition #4 – HIV / AIDS / STD’s (Most Likely Not Disqualifying)
The U.S. Military used to be very stern in regard to STDs. During World War II, it could fall within harsh punishment, and members could even get discharged because of it.
Right now, positive tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, or HIV are reported to public health officials in every branch of the U.S. Military.
Consequently, hepatitis B or HIV could disqualify you from being enlisted.
In the past, if you contract these conditions while active duty, you would be discharged. However, the military appears to be taking a different stance these days and offering treatment, instead of separation from service.
As far as we’re aware, none of the following sexually transmitted diseases are grounds for military disqualification, nor do they require a waiver.
- Molluscum Contagiosum
- Pubic Lice
Related Article – Can you join the military with a GED?
Condition #5 – Eyesight Issues (Possibly Disqualifying)
According to the standards of physical fitness provided by the Armed Forces, there are some eyesight issues that are disqualifying.
Armed Force members are required to meet certain visual standards with or without correction devices such as spectacle lenses.
Disqualification based on eyesight for appointment, enlistment, or induction includes:
- Current distant visual acuity of any degree that cannot be corrected with lenses to at least 20/40 in each eye
- Current near visual acuity of any degree that cannot be correct with lenses to at least 20/40 in the better eye
- Current refractive error (hyperopia, myopia, astigmatism) in excess of -8.00 or +8.00 diopters spherical equivalent or astigmatism in excess of 3.00 diopters
- Any condition that specifically requires contact lenses for adequate correction of vision, such as corneal scars and opacities and irregular astigmatism
Requirements for color vision are set by individual branches, and color vision deficiencies may limit your choice of career fields.
Entrance into one of the US Military Academies or ROTC has additional requirements.
For example, West Point requires visual acuity that corrects to 20/20 with contact or spectacle lenses. Vision below those standards is disqualifying.
The Air Force Academy, on the other hand, requires distance acuity that corrects to at least 20/40 in each eye. It also requires near vision acuity that corrects to 20/40 in the better eye.
Vision requirements for Officer Candidate School (OCS) will also depend on the associated branch of service.
There is no standard set for color vision, which is a common concern. Though it will get tested as part of the standard physical exam.
It is normally not a requirement to qualify for enlistment, but it may restrict you from joining certain specialties.
For example, if you wanted to become a Navy SEAL, you must meet specific eyesight requirements.
They include 20/40 vision in your best eye, 20/70 vision in your worst eye, and it must be correctable to 20/25 with no color blindness.
There are several rare types of eyesight issues such as blepharitis, conjunctiva, cornea dystrophy, and iridocyclitis that are disqualifying diseases.
During the initial examination, the physician may also check for glaucoma, loss of normal pupillary reflexes, and night blindness.
Keep in mind that there are several eyesight correction options available, including PRK and Lasik eye surgery.
Condition #6 – Anxiety Disorder (Possibly Disqualifying)
Anxiety is an issue that affects every single human. However, some individuals have a harder time appropriately dealing with it than others. In certain cases, they may even get diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
The military realizes that some anxiety is normal. However, since anxiety is considered a mental health issue it will check your medical background for any perceived risks.
The biggest mental health factor the military assesses is a history of suicidal behavior. Though that is more connected to depression than anxiety, it will also consider previous or current issues.
Some disqualifying conditions include:
- Panic attacks
- Social phobia
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Simple phobias
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD, more on this below)
Likewise, specific phobias such as a fear of specific animals like spiders, snakes, or dogs (zoophobia), fear of specific environments like heights or thunderstorms (acrophobia/astraphobia), and situational fears like bridges or driving (gephyrophobia/xenophobia) can all be grounds for military disqualification.
Of course, this all depends on the extent of your phobia, and whether or not you’ve been treated for it in the recent past.
Condition #7 – Mental Illness (Possibly Disqualifying)
The military takes mental health pretty seriously. Though it is difficult to cover every single mental illness in detail, for the most part, if there has been an official diagnosis and treatment for a mental illness, joining the U.S. Military may be a challenge.
It can also present a challenge for current members that are diagnosed with certain mood disorders or behavioral problems after enlistment.
Along with depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders – suicidal thoughts and self-harm are critical factors that are gauged.
Naturally, the U.S. Military is pretty reluctant to accept anyone with a history of self-harm or suicidal thoughts, regardless of how long ago they occurred.
Physicians are allowed to exercise some discretion during an examination if they believe previous circumstances, especially one-time situations, may be truly in the past and would not impede on their performance in the military moving forward.
Other mental health concerns that may affect military service include:
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Personality disorders: These include things like Paranoid Schizophrenia, Borderline personality disorder, Antisocial personality disorder, and Dependent personality disorder.
- Eating disorders: Including Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge eating, Pica, and Rumination disorder.
Condition #8 – Scoliosis (Possibly Disqualifying)
When it comes to Scoliosis, the military policy is fairly straightforward.
The military does examine the spine and sacroiliac joints for issues like scoliosis.
According to the medical standards set in place by the U.S. Military, if lumbar or thoracic scoliosis is greater than 30 degrees, or thoracic kyphosis greater than 50 degrees (as measured by the Cobb method) you could be disqualified from serving in the military.
If you have any congenital spinal fusion of more than 2 vertebrae or any surgical spinal fusion, you will be disqualified to join the military.
Condition #9 – Asperger’s (Most Likely Not Disqualifying)
While some people may assume that Asperger’s and other types of autism are immediate grounds for disqualification, this is simply not true.
Many individuals with Asperger’s are highly functional and can go on to become quality members of the Armed Services.
Related Article: Can You Join the U.S. Military with Autism?
Someone that is diagnosed with Asperger’s will likely need further medical examination in order to make a determining factor.
You will find out for sure once you get to MEPS.
The military is more concerned (regardless of the condition) with physical fitness and the requirements needed to perform duties correctly.
Condition #10 – Epilepsy (Possibly Disqualifying)
Epilepsy is considered a neurological disorder. The military treats each neurological disorder differently and does not specify if epilepsy is disqualifying.
Instead, it examines each case on an individual basis. The medical standards specify that late post-traumatic epilepsy is a potentially disqualifying factor. It is defined as epilepsy that occurs more than one week after an injury.
Furthermore, epilepsy beyond the age of five (unless the applicant has been free of seizures for a period of 5 years without taking prescription meds to control it) is a likely disqualification.
Those with a history of epilepsy must have a current neurology consultation with current EEG results for consideration. Speak to a local recruiter for more information.
Condition #11 – Learning Disabilities (Possibly Disqualifying)
The U.S. Military does consider learning disabilities when deciding if someone is appropriate for service.
The causes for rejection for enlistment without an approved medical waiver include things like ADHD.
Related Article: Can You Join The Military With ADD/ADHD?
Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a disqualifying condition. The exception is if the individual can demonstrate academic performance that is acceptable and has not used any medication in the past 12 months.
The military is currently reexamining its approach to ADHD and has noted recently that it might start assessing circumstances on a case-by-case basis.
Furthermore, current or a history of academic skills or perceptual defects that are secondary to organic or functional mental disorders (like dyslexia) and interfere with school or employment are disqualifying.
Once again, individuals may apply for a waiver by providing sufficient academic standing and previous employment performance.
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Condition #12 – Allergies (Possibly Disqualifying)
It may seem trivial, but interested applicants may not get accepted if they have a history of systemic allergic reactions to food or food additives.
Why? Military service may place soldiers in remote locations with limited food and healthcare options. It considers you at-risk if you have severe enough allergies, particularly to food, that it could put you in harm’s way.
Some allergies that may be particularly troubling include:
- Peanut allergies
- Shellfish allergies
- Bee allergies
- Gluten allergies
- Milk allergies
- Fish allergies
If you’re currently taking allergy shots, it may also be disqualifying.
Again, the main issue is this…How can you successfully keep up with your allergy shot schedule when you’re out fighting in some foreign land?
I remember when I was taking allergy shots as a kid, there were very specific protocols.
I had to take them once a week, on a certain day.
If I missed the allergy shot one week for one reason or another, it wasn’t a big deal.
However, if I missed 2 or more weeks in a row, it was.
Since you’ll be deployed for months on end, it will be nearly impossible to keep up with an allergy shot regimen.
Again, most of this depends on how severe your allergies are.
For example, I had an allergy to dust mites and ragweed.
My symptoms included a runny/stuffy nose and itchy/watery eyes.
It wasn’t life-threatening, but it made me feel pretty uncomfortable.
Now take someone that may have a severe allergy to peanuts.
Some guys and gals have it to the extent that their throats can close up, making it nearly impossible to breathe.
Someone like myself, although uncomfortable, could get away with not taking allergy shots.
For someone with a severe peanut allergy, on the other hand, it could be potentially risking their life.
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Condition #13 – Braces / Dental Work (Possibly Disqualifying)
Once again, your mouth and its dental work may not come to mind as the first thought of disqualifying factors for joining the U.S. Military, but it’s actually a big deal.
For example, having too many cavities is one of many detailed yet specific requests the military demands, or an individual will become disqualified.
According to the latest medical standards, “Eight or more teeth with visually apparent decay, cavities, or caries” disqualifies you from entering service.
Unfortunately, braces can also temporarily disqualify you from the military until they are removed.
Technically you can still join the military, but the only way to do so would be through the Delayed Entry Program (DEP).
Once you get the braces removed, you can then get sworn in and attend basic training.
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Some other dental conditions that may disqualify you from joining include:
- Jaw diseases or tissues preventing normal function
- Severe Malocclusion
Condition #14 – PTSD (Possibly Disqualifying)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a very hot topic right now within the military community.
Though PTSD does not strictly affect soldiers, it’s commonly associated with those that have served in the military and seen combat.
Normal, everyday people suffer from PTSD from other traumatic experiences as well.
In terms of military service, an injury or medical condition that is severe enough to warrant a VA disability rating will likely require a medical waiver to join the military.
Members of the military suffering from PTSD must ask to get discharged from service due to the disability.
Unfortunately, right now there is no application for discharge regarding PTSD – only a recommendation from a military doctor.
Likewise, many of the medications used to treat PTSD are disqualifying. They include:
- Prozac (Fluoxetine)
- Paxil (Paroxetine)
- Zoloft (Sertraline)
- Effexor (Venlafaxine)
- Certain antidepressants
Your doctor at MEPS will be able to help you further with this.
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Condition #15 – Crohn’s Disease (Disqualifying)
It is considered rare to receive a waiver for admission to the military regarding Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory bowel diseases.
It would include conditions like ulcerative colitis and ulcerative proctitis.
The following conditions are disqualifying:
- Gastroduodenal Crohn’s disease
- Crohn’s (granulomatous colitis)
Condition #16 – Heart Conditions (Possibly Disqualifying)
As you might suspect, heart conditions are a delicate subject when being evaluated for duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.
There are a number of heart conditions that could disqualify you from military service:
- All valvular heart diseases, congenital or acquired, including those improved by an operation are disqualifying
- Coronary heart disease
- Symptomatic arrhythmia
- Supraventricular tachycardia
- Ventricular arrhythmia
- Hypertrophy or dilation of the heart
- Persistent tachycardia
- Congenital anomalies of heart and major vessels
- Heart murmur (possibly disqualifying)
- Heart palpitations (possibly disqualifying)
Condition #17 – Bunions (Probably Not Disqualifying)
The U.S. Military has tight regulations regarding feet. Surprisingly, flat-footed individuals were once not allowed to join the Armed Forces.
The military has since relaxed its stance on these issues as it is possible to gain a medical waiver for the condition.
Bunions are another example where if it doesn’t affect your running or ability to move, you should have no problem gaining clearance.
Related Article: Can You Join the Military with Flat Feet?
Condition #18 – Arthritis (Possibly Disqualifying)
Arthritis is a painful disorder that can make basic movements very painful. As a result, it can prove to be counterproductive to you carrying out assigned tasks effectively.
Right now “active, subacute, or chronic arthritis” is a disqualifying issue with the military. Chronic osteoarthritis and traumatic arthritis of isolated joints of more than a minimal degree fall under this category.
It must not have interfered with a physically active vocation in civilian life that would also prevent “satisfactory performance of military duty.”
Condition #19 – Celiac Disease (Possibly Disqualifying)
Celiac disease is a fairly rare condition that affects the small intestine and makes it very sensitive to consuming gluten. As a result, the individual often avoids gluten in meals.
Unfortunately in the military, much like the case with food allergies, it is unable to follow specific dietary requests. You essentially get what everyone else on the force receives for a meal.
And since you may get assigned to a remote location with limited food and medical help, it could disqualify you from service. Therefore, you may need to apply for a waiver.
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Condition #20 – Hearing Issues (Possibly Disqualifying)
How does the military regard hearing? It will test each year for frequencies in order to gauge hearing loss.
The following hearing conditions could disqualify you from service:
- Current hearing threshold level in either ear that exceeds:
- Twenty-five decibels (dB) averaged at 500, 1000, and 2000 cycles per second
- Thirty dB at 500, 1000, or 2000 cycles per second
- Thirty-five dB at 3000 cycles per second
- Forty-five dB at 4000 cycles per second
- Unexplained asymmetric hearing loss by a difference of 30 or more dB between the left and right ears at any one or more frequencies between 500 hertz, 1000 hertz, or 2000 hertz.
- History of hearing aid use
The military will conduct these tests to make sure that the results are within an acceptable standard.
Significant hearing loss or complete deafness would probably play into a disqualification.
Likewise, if you’re deaf in one ear, this would likely also disqualify you from serving in the military.
Frequently Asked Questions We Receive
Below are a few of the most popular questions we receive regarding potential military disqualifiers:
What sorts of medical conditions could disqualify you from joining the military?
There is a very long list of medical conditions that can affect potential future military service. It completely depends on several factors, including which branch you want to join, what medical condition you have, and more.
Can you join the military with a felony?
Like everything else in the military, it depends on a wide array of factors. They include the type of felony, when it was committed, which branch you want to join, and much more.
What can disqualify you at MEPS?
As mentioned previously, there are dozens of conditions that can disqualify you at MEPS. They include dental issues, eye/ear issues, hearing problems, and heart problems.
Are waivers available?
Certain medical conditions do allow you to receive a waiver under the right conditions. Those include waivers for eyesight, height/weight, and previous surgeries.
The United States has to enforce fairly strict guidelines for being accepted, including everything from mental health to physical ailments to learning disabilities.
If you have any questions, please contact your local Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard recruiter and they can provide more details as this article is only designed as a brief overview.
References / Resources
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