Military Medical Waiver Guide
General Military Questions

Military Medical Waiver Guide

The U.S. Armed Forces employ several guidelines to make sure recruits are eligible for service.

It’s why the military has educational, citizenship, and physical fitness requirements.

Additionally, new recruits must pass a medical and dental exam, as well as an observation of your mental health.

If the military deems you unfit for service, you may have a chance of receiving a military medical waiver.

Here is your guide to military medical waivers and what you need to know.

Related Article:  41 Questions To Ask A Military Recruiter

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Navy Medical Waiver Process

medical waivers
The U.S. Navy uses the same guidelines for medical health concerns as the other uniformed branches. Image: Navy.com

The Department of Defense established the medical standards for every branch of the military.

Therefore, the admission standards are the same for every military branch (including the U.S. Coast Guard).

However, each military branch handles the medical waiver process a little differently.

A medical exam takes place at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS).

New recruits spend their first few days of basic training at MEPS making sure they pass all the medical requirements.

Before you reach MEPS you’ll complete the form Medical Prescreen of Medical History Report.

The prescreen application is provided by a Navy recruiter to check for any conditions that might not make you fit for service.

It’s tremendously important not to lie on your medical prescreening or during your time at MEPS.

Several health conditions make military service difficult yet not impossible which means you could qualify for a medical waiver.

Navy Disqualifying Medical Conditions

navy disqualifiers medical
Image: Dodlive.mil

Here are some of the medical conditions that require a waiver to continue and serve in the U.S. Navy.

Some of these conditions make it harder to receive a medical waiver.

Notwithstanding it’s still possible to receive clearance:

  • AIDS/HIV
  • Cirrhosis
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Diabetes (Type I or Type II)
  • Ear Infections
  • Heart Conditions or Defects
  • Hepatitis
  • Loss of a Body Limb
  • Poor Hearing
  • Scoliosis

Medical problems like scoliosis don’t always automatically disqualify you from service.

Related ArticleCan You Join The Military With Scoliosis?

For example, most branches like the U.S. Navy admit sailors with scoliosis as long as the curvature isn’t greater than 30 degrees.

Other conditions, like mental health, makes it more challenging to receive clearance to serve the military:

  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • Drug/Alcohol Abuse
  • PTSD
  • Schizophrenia

NOTE: The U.S. Navy recently adapted its medical waiver process. You can learn more details about the revised policy, including the opportunity to request a second medical waiver review, here!

Army Medical Waiver Process

army medical waiver process
The United States Army has over a million members, some of which received waivers before they were approved to serve the country. Image: Flickr

The United States Army carries forward many of the same procedures at MEPS as the other military branches.

Some argue that the Army is less selective because it has the highest enrollment of the military branches.

Therefore, the possibility of receiving a medical waiver might improve with the odds but at the end of the day it still comes down to the medical condition.

There are some conditions the Army is willing to accommodate and support because of others.

In every case where a medical waiver is not approved, it generally is because the condition could serve as a safety or liability hazard for you or the fellow soldiers in your platoon.

It’s important to remember that many medical conditions listed under the Department of Defense guidelines are not permanently disqualifying.

There is a difference between temporary and permanent disqualifications:

  • Temporary Disqualification: Temporary disqualifications might cause a delay in admission yet doesn’t qualify as a permanent decision. For example, someone that broke an arm receives a temporary disqualification until the condition gets corrected.
  • Permanent Disqualification: Conditions that require surgery, or will never go away, represent permanent disqualifications. It’s basically anything that cannot get undone. However, it doesn’t mean in all cases that you can’t serve the military but you’ll need to apply for a waiver and take measures to correct or improve the condition.

If you have a medical complication you should bring up the matter with an Army recruiter.

The recruiter is responsible for prescreening health concerns so he or she can inform you of the likelihood of receiving a medical waiver for the problem.

Related ArticleArmy Height and Weight Standards

Army Disqualifying Medical Conditions

Here is a handful of the medical conditions that require an Army medical waiver.

The list is comparable to the other branches of the military.

The United States Army will analyze infections and other conditions of the head, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and neck.

Recruits will also receive thorough examinations of the heart, spine, and urinary systems.

These health conditions are disqualifying:

  • AIDS/HIV
  • Cirrhosis
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Diabetes (Type I or Type II)
  • Ear Infections
  • Heart Conditions or Defects
  • Hepatitis
  • Loss of a Body Limb
  • Poor Hearing
  • Scoliosis

Mental health conditions are also taken into account in the Army:

  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • Drug / Alcohol Abuse
  • PTSD
  • Schizophrenia

You can view the complete list of disqualifying medical health conditions by reading the Medical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment, or Induction Into The Military Services.

Air Force Medical Waiver Process

military medical waivers
The Air Force, like other branches, has varying levels of approval before it accepts a military medical waiver. Image: AF.com

After you complete the medical pre-screening for the United States Air Force (or any military branch) you progress to MEPS.

Keep in mind that MEPS does not belong to any particular branch, but rather the Department of Defense.

Therefore, the disqualifying medical conditions for one branch is the same for another branch, yet the rate of approving medical waivers is different.

Doctors that are employed by the DOD will contact new recruits if anything comes up on the prescreening that requires a closer examination.

Medical conditions that are automatic disqualifiers (like bipolar disorder) means that you’ll likely be denied an appointment with MEPS.

Unfortunately, recruits cannot appeal the decision for immediate denial of MEPS.

However, many conditions allow you a closer medical examination where a qualified doctor can determine if you are still fit for service.

There, it’s possible to request a medical waiver with the Air Force.

Air Force Disqualifying Medical Conditions

The United States Air Force is considered slightly more selective than some of the other military branches.

The branch also factors in the Speciality Code you are seeking, as some USAF jobs require top-secret security clearance or special qualification (i.e. pilot).

Expect your medical health conditions to be closely analyzed if you are in a position that requires a lot of trust or advanced physical fitness.

Speak to an Air Force recruiter if you have any of the following conditions:

  • AIDS/HIV
  • Cirrhosis
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Diabetes (Type I or Type II)
  • Ear Infections
  • Heart Conditions or Defects
  • Hepatitis
  • Loss of a Body Limb
  • Poor Hearing
  • Scoliosis

It’s also difficult to join the Air Force with the following mental health conditions:

  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • Drug/Alcohol Abuse
  • PTSD
  • Schizophrenia

Related Article – Military Disqualifications For Mental Health: 9 Common Conditions

Marine Corps Medical Waiver Process

military waiver
The Marine Corps has the smallest enrollment, making it a little more challenging yet not impossible to receive a waiver. It truly depends on the underlying health condition. Image: AETC

The Marine Corps is the most selective military branch with highly competitive basic training.

Regardless, it does not mean that a medical condition will disqualify you from the Marine Corps easier, but it does depend on the health problem.

For example, temporary disqualifications do not require a medical waiver.

However, permanent disqualifications require you to receive a medical waiver since the condition is not going to change with time.

Consequently, the Marine Corps (like other branches) does not allow enlistment without an approved waiver.

The medical doctor assigned to you at MEPS has the ability to indicate on your records if a waiver is recommended for your case.

The doctor must consider questions like:

  • Is the medical condition progressive?
  • Can the condition get worse because of military service?
  • Can the recruit complete satisfactory training for military duty with the condition?
  • Does the condition create an undue hazard to the recruit or other service members in combat situations?

Once a doctor at MEPS makes a recommendation the decision is left up to the Marine Corps to approve the waiver or not.

Marine Corps Disqualifying Medical Conditions

The Marine Corps is a demanding and intense branch of the military to join.

As a result, you may face more obstacles to overcoming disqualifying health conditions yet a medical waiver is still possible.

Speak to a recruiter if you have any of the following:

  • AIDS/HIV
  • Cirrhosis
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Diabetes (Type I or Type II)
  • Ear Infections
  • Asthma
  • Heart Conditions or Defects
  • Hepatitis
  • Loss of a Body Limb
  • Poor Hearing
  • Scoliosis

It’s very hard to receive a medical waiver for the following mental health disorders:

  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • Drug/Alcohol Abuse
  • PTSD
  • Schizophrenia

Related Article: Can You Join The Military With Asthma?

Coast Guard Medical Waiver Process

military waiver process
The Coast Guard examines every health condition differently before making a final determination. Image: United States Coast Guard

A doctor can make a recommendation for a suggested medical waiver to a recruiting commander in the Coast Guard.

The same recommendation is plausible in any of the military branches as MEPS falls under the command of the DOD.

A recruiting commander has the power to accept or deny a military medical waiver.

The recruiting commander will factor the recommendation of the doctor assigned to you at MEPS as well as the objectives of the specific branch.

Unfortunately, there is no method of an appeal for recruits that get denied for a medical waiver.

Every waiver requires varying levels of review for approval so it’s hard to give an estimate in terms of time.

The best thing you can do is be open and honest with a recruiter about any underlying medical conditions.

Coast Guard Disqualifying Medical Conditions

The U.S. Coast Guard follows the same guidelines as the other military branches.

MEPS is managed by the Department of Defense with the same temporary and permanent disqualifications.

Once again, speak to a recruiter if you have any of the following:

  • AIDS/HIV
  • Cirrhosis
  • Autism
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Diabetes (Type I or Type II)
  • Ear Infections
  • Heart Conditions or Defects
  • Hepatitis
  • Loss of a Body Limb
  • Poor Hearing
  • Scoliosis

The Coast Guard also needs to take into account mental health conditions that make it difficult for you to serve the country without elevated safety and security risk.

The following disorders are generally automatic disqualifiers in the Coast Guard:

  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • Drug/Alcohol Abuse
  • PTSD
  • Schizophrenia

However, the Coast Guard (like other branches) is starting to apply more waivers to anxiety and depression than in the past.

Regardless, it’s still very difficult to receive a waiver for more serious mental health problems.

Related ArticleCan You Join The Military With Autism?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

meps depression waiver
Speak to a local recruiter about any health concerns you have that may disqualify you from service. In many situations, a military medical waiver is possible. Image: Barksdale AFB

Here are some frequently asked questions about military medical waivers.

It helps answer some of the basics about medical waivers.

Speak to a local military recruiter for more questions about disqualifying health conditions.

How long does a military medical waiver take to get approved?

It’s difficult to set an accurate timeframe for military medical waivers.

There are several factors to take into account, and much of the timeframe depends on the type of medical condition and the severity of the issue.

Often, a military medical waiver needs to pass varying levels of approval before you are granted permission to enlist.

In general, expect at least two weeks to a month to hear back on a military medical waiver.

Related Article20 Health Conditions That May Disqualify You From Military

What’s the difference between Temporary vs. Permanent Disqualifications?

A temporary disqualification is something that temporarily prevents you from serving.

For example, breaking a foot inhibits you from carrying out the functions for duty.

However, a broken foot will heal and with time the problem is no longer existent.

Those with a temporary disqualification do not need to apply for a waiver.

They simply need to wait and let time heal the problem.

On the other hand, a permanent disqualification is something that will not go away with time.

The health condition is sometimes correctly through surgery or with medication.

Regardless, you need a military medical waiver to receive permission to enlist.

If I’ve previously been disqualified from MEPS, can I try again?

You cannot enlist with a permanent medical disqualification without an approved waiver.

The first step in a military medical waiver process is receiving a recommendation from a doctor at MEPS.

If the doctor recommends you for a waiver then you still have a shot at receiving approval.

However, there is no opportunity for an appeal if the doctor fails to recommend you at MEPS.

Once a doctor at MEPS makes the recommendation it’s passed to a recruiting commander for the military branch you are seeking to join.

Each military branch handles medical waiver reviews differently but usually goes through several layers of approval.

It’s possible to have a second opportunity at MEPS though it depends on the health condition.

If I’ve been disqualified from one branch of the military, can I join another branch?

The Armed Forces use the same disqualifying medical conditions for every military branch.

Therefore, what is disqualifying in the Army is also disqualifying in the Navy.

However, one branch may approve a waiver while another branch may not based on the condition, your role in the military, and other factors.

It’s possible to try and enlist in another branch after another denied your military medical waiver.

Once again it primarily depends on the health condition.

For example, someone with Schizophrenia is likely to get denied by every military branch, while another recruit with a small curvature of scoliosis might have better luck the second time around. 

If I’ve been disqualified from the military, can I contact my congressperson?

The answer is no based on the current Department of Defense regulations.

Each military branch has the right to approve or deny medical waivers, depending on the current needs of the service.

As a result, contacting a congressperson will not change anything about the matter.

What if I get a disqualifying medical problem after I enlist?

Any medical condition that gets diagnosed after you become active-duty is treated differently compared to new recruits.

As long as the condition is not pre-existing (meaning that you lied on the original enlistment papers) the ordeal is handled differently.

Consequently, it’s difficult to get discharged from the military unless a Medical Evaluation Board believes differently.

Related ArticleHow To Lose Weight For The Military: Your 30-Day Plan

Conclusion

A military medical waiver is an opportunity to receive special permission to join the military for a disqualifying health condition.

There are a variety of health conditions that are disqualifying in the military.

All the military branches follow the same guidelines set forth by the Department of Defense for disqualifying health conditions.

However, the final determination on a military medical waiver depends on the specific branch with some being more selective than others.

It also depends on whether the health concern is a temporary or permanent health disqualification.

Speak to a local military recruiter for more information about disqualifying health problems, seeking a medical waiver, and MEPS.

Rob V.
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