During your military entrance processing experience, in addition to a lot of paperwork, you will also have to undergo a physical exam. The point of this exam is simply to determine whether you meet the minimal enlistment requirements for physical readiness. Some people confuse this aspect of the entrance process with determining military fitness readiness, but the two are totally different. This phase of the enlistment process simply establishes whether you can get into the military from a medical standpoint.
A Short Rant: I read a lot about how the military has incredibly high standards for its recruits and how it only accepts the best and the most physically able, like our military is comprised of a bunch of Spartans or something. Not to sound cynical, but that’s dumb. People are people and the military is made up of a bunch of people. No one the military is completely free of some physical imperfection, deformity, illness in some cases, or whatever.
That in mind, there are still some things the military draws a hard line on, like AIDS and HIV. Too risky. But in most cases, if you have something tolerably “wrong” with you (realistically, everybody has something), you can get a waiver for it, which I’ll get into. The military just needs to be aware and able to attest to your physical situation to verify you can do the work they’re (hopefully) going to be paying you for.
Over the course of your first visits with your recruiter, the topic of your medical history should come up fairly early on. To what extent your recruiter has pressed you for your medical history varies; but at a very base level, he should have emphasized the importance of being thorough when disclosing that information. Much like law violations, it’s very important that you be as honest with your recruiter about your medical history as possible. This saves both you and your recruiter valuable time.
The military entrance physical exam, obvious as it may seem, won’t be conducted by your recruiter. This part of the process will be handled by (usually) a military doctor or team of doctors at a nearby MEPS (Military Entrance and Processing Station). This is where they take care of all the military entrance elements the recruiter can’t handle at the office. In short, MEPS is where the big decisions are made, including ASVAB testing, medical evaluations, branch selection, military job assignments, and where you’ll swear in once you get to that point.
A Quick Word About Military Medical Waivers
During the military entrance process, you’ll come across hurdles that need to be overcome. Whether it’s a smeared history with the law, a medical issue that you prefer to keep to yourself, or money problems (especially if you’re interested in a job requiring a security clearance), you may find yourself freaking out about your future plans to enlist. In many, many cases there’s little reason to lose sleep over it. This is not a guarantee, but it is important to understand that the military does make exceptions. These exceptions come in the form of waivers (which will be covered in detail in the future). If the list of disqualifying medical conditions below rules you out, don’t simply quit. It depends on the severity of the medical condition, of course, and your condition may disqualify you from service-possibly. On the other hand, if you simply ask your recruiter if there is anything he can do, magical things can happen. Below is a list of circumstances that often-but not always-disqualify a candidate from enlistment.
The recruiter, although he cannot issue a medical waiver himself, can take you medical condition up the ‘food chain’ and have it assessed by the MEPS Chief Medical Officer. If he/she feels that your condition isn’t a point of great concern to your service abilities, then you’re golden. Naturally, this process may require another visit to MEPS, further testing and evaluation, but it’s definitely worth the shot. Believe it or not, even if the MEPS CMO turns you down, you also have the option to take it past his or her level, a bit higher up on the chain. Persistence, at that point, does pay off.
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Miscellaneous Disqualifying Conditions
Frequent motion sickness
Being an organ transplant recipient
History of large benign tumors anywhere in the body
Bone, if trauma prone
Anywhere in nervous system
Any malignant tumor (present or removed).
Any tumor that affects duty performance ability
Chronic hives (urticaria)
Scarring, if it interferes with ability to use equipment or wear uniform
Extensive, resistant fungus
Chronic, resistance eczema
Any history of psychosis
Anything beyond mild stuttering/stammering
Frequent and persistent sleepwalking
Frequent and/or recurring encounters with law enforcement
Personality disorders manifest by drug or alcohol addiction
Inability to adjust in work, school, or home environments
History of drug/alcohol dependence
Meningitis associated head injury (within five years)
Epilepsy (after age of five)
Head injury resulting in unconsciousness/amnesia
Chronic rhinitis (allergies)
Uncontrolled hay fever
Perforated hard palate
Chest and Lungs
Acute, chronic beyond mild disease (pneumonia, bronchitis, etc.)
Asthma (any age)
Removal of any part of lung
Tuberculosis (within 2 years or two or more times)
Heart, Vascular Conditions
High blood pressure if requiring medication or dietary regulation
Head and Neck
Depressed skull fracture/s
Loss or removal of any part of skull
Missing a kidney
Kidney stones (within one year or occurring more than twice, or current)
Congenital absence of uterus
Acute or recurring infections
Vulva, condyloma accuminatum, dystrophic conditions
Vagina, congenital abnormalities that interfere with physical activity
Surgery induced menopausal symptoms
Irregular, or no periods
Missing both testicles
Urethritis, if chronic or acute
Absence of lens
Requirement of contact lenses
Opacity of cornea or lens
Back and Spine
Symptomatic (healed) fractures
Recurring back pain
Scoliosis (curving of the spine), if severe
Soft/softening of bones, osteoporosis
Scars, if problematic, adherent, painful
Plantar fasciitis, resistant to treatment
Weakness of or paralysis of muscles
Amputation of big toe, hand, arm, foot, leg, more than 1/3 or distal part of thumb, one joint on 2+ fingers (except little finger), two joints on index, middle, or ring fingers
Fractures of any ‘major’ bone within 6 months
Improperly healed fracture
Metal implants for fracture repair
Beyond moderate arthritis
Knee cartilage torn (unless surgically corrected more than 6 months prior)
Unstable, deranged joints
Knee ligament surgery
Most of em, other than low thyroid that’s medically controllable.
Ears and Auditory
Acute, chronic canal infection
Missing an (or both) ears
Acute or chronic middle ear infections
Hearing loss caused by eardrum scarring (+20dB loss)
Smallness or closing of eardrums
Braces or other ortho gear, acceptable in DEP (Delayed Entry Program) but must be removed prior to active duty.
Inability to eat ordinary food
Blood, Blood-Forming Tissue Disease
Anemia, unless correctable
Bleeding or clotting disease
Low white blood cell count
Hay fever, skin allergies
Asthma, reactive airway disease, exercise induced spasms, asthmatic bronchitis (any age)
Allergic manifestations, history of life-threatening responses to stinging insects, history of moderate to severe reactions to foods, spices, or food additives.
Abdominal, Digestive Sytem
Splenectomy (unless due to trauma)
Scars showing bulging or herniation, interfering with ability to perform, or causes pain
Resection of any part of digestive tract
Prolapse or stricture of rectum
Acute or chronic pancreas disease
Hernia, if present
Hepatitis within 6 months
Fistula in anus
Abdominal surgery within two months