Can You Join The Military After A Failed Drug Test – Can you join the military with ADHD? Can you join the military with ADHD? Do ADD symptoms preclude service in the Navy, Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, and Space Force? Is it possible to obtain an exemption for each branch? If so, how? Although the enlistment process is more complicated for recruits with ADHD, it can be done. Here’s how.
Every year, thousands of young Americans join the Armed Forces, which today include about 1.3 million active duty members spanning the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Navy and Marine Corps. (And, more recently, the Space Force.)
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Can You Join The Military After A Failed Drug Test
Military service is an attractive and often successful career option for teenagers and young adults who thrive in high-energy situations, collaborate creatively with others, respond positively to clear expectations, and work best with structure.
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In many ways, it’s an excellent fit for people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which makes military restrictions on ADHD recruits all the more frustrating.
Enlistment steps and requirements are similar to the military, varying only slightly from branch to branch. Aside from age and educational qualifications, the military outlines medical standards for enlistment and appointment, including an extensive list of physical, mental, and behavioral conditions that could disqualify an otherwise exceptional candidate .
ADHD is classified as one of these restricted conditions. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to join the military with ADHD, but it is more complicated and may require advanced planning.
According to Department of Defense (DOD) guidelines last updated in 2018, ADHD is considered a disqualifying condition if any of the following conditions are present along with the diagnosis:
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Other potentially disqualifying conditions under the DOD’s “Learning, Psychiatric, and Behavioral Disorders” section include dyslexia, autism, mood disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and anxiety .
A candidate with ADHD who meets the above criteria needs a medical waiver to enlist in any branch of the military. Medical waivers are initiated and requested by the specific military branch under DOD provisions that “allow applicants who do not meet physical and medical standards … to be considered for a medical waiver.”
However, getting a medical exemption for ADHD is a long, multi-step, and largely imprecise process that has no guarantees.
For example, it is difficult to find well-documented information about the medical exemption process and criteria for each individual branch. Additionally, recruiters in each military branch (and even within the same branch) are often inconsistent in the information and advice they provide to applicants with ADHD. Additionally, variations in candidate medical histories and enlistment paths make it nearly impossible to find a uniform path for hopeful candidates with ADHD.
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Applicants typically learn about the medical waiver process when they meet with a recruiter, the first step in enrollment for any branch.
Most applicants disclose their history of ADHD in conversation with the recruiter, but they must also indicate their history of ADHD in the medical documents they must complete as part of the application process.
One such document is the Accession Medical Prescreening Report, or DD 2807-2, which requires applicants to check “yes” or “no” if they have been evaluated or treated for ADHD and if they are taking or have taken medicine to improve them. attention Applicants must also explain all “yes” answers in a separate section. The form notes the consequences of not answering truthfully or of making false statements.
This prescreening form is completed with the help of the recruiter and is reviewed by a medical professional at a military entry processing station (MEPS), usually the second step in the recruiting process, during which potential recruits take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test and undergo a medical examination.
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The MEPS physician makes medical qualification decisions and may use the prescreen document to request additional medical records and/or make a (or preliminary) decision about the applicant’s readiness. MEPS physician determinations are made on an individual, case-by-case basis. If a MEPS doctor says the applicant does not meet medical standards, the appropriate military branch can initiate and request a medical exemption for the individual.
Each branch has its own board of waiver authorities, which will make the waiver determination “based on all available information about the problem or condition, as well as the specific needs of the military service,” according to the guidelines of the DOD
But what exactly does each branch look for when deciding on a waiver? There are several factors that come into play that can work in an ADHD applicant’s favor, such as time spent without medication and testing correctly without.
Recruiters generally tell applicants that they must be off medication for a considerable period of time — the most important step to take — and demonstrate that they can function properly while off medication before starting the enlistment process. and be considered for a waiver.
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The length of time required to be medication free differs between branches and even between recruiters within the same branch. Some also recommend different approaches to demonstrate proper functioning without medication.
In particular, in the Army, Navy and Marines, recruiters largely advise applicants with ADHD to stop taking any stimulant or non-stimulant medication for at least a year.
Some recruiters, particularly within the Air Force, tell applicants that they must be medication-free for 15 months or more (a glaring example of such inconsistencies can be seen in a possibly outdated section of the Air Force website , which says applicants must be medication-free for a minimum of two years to get a waiver). The Coast Guard, which makes up just 3 percent of active duty members of the armed forces, is widely considered the most difficult branch to successfully apply for an ADHD exemption.
The physician (usually the prescribing physician) must note the medication-free time in the applicant’s medical and pharmacy records and provide it as part of the waiver process. Records should also describe the applicant’s ADHD history, diagnosis, treatment, and stability while off medication.
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In addition to medical documentation, recruiters may also recommend that applicants submit transcripts and letters of recommendation to show evidence of successful academic and work performance while off medication.
If an applicant with ADHD is shown to require medication to function on a daily basis, a recruiter, MEPS physician, or others involved in the recruiting process may conclude that a military career is not the best path for the applicant.
While each branch has different cutoffs, low ASVAB scores and a poor academic or work history can also raise red flags for MEPS hiring and staffing. Even an applicant’s preferred major in their desired major can affect waiver decisions. It is important to note that there are no accommodations for the ASVAB.
There are also times when a branch decides not to approve a candidate’s exemption request, without giving a reason. Judgments, however, can be contested and annulled.
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Take Adam*, now in his 30s, who currently performs aircraft maintenance in the Navy after successfully obtaining a medical exemption to enlist.
Adam was diagnosed with ADHD in elementary school and was prescribed various stimulant medications over the years. He stopped taking medication shortly after high school. “I didn’t feel like it did anything in any way to make me feel good,” Adam said. “It turned me into something I wasn’t.”
Several years later, Adam decided to enlist in the Navy, unaware of the military’s ADHD policies. Despite being several years without medication, the branch rejected him.
Disagreeing with the Navy’s decision and determined to overturn it, he sought help and found an Army recruiter experienced in enlistment procedures. The Army recruiter, who acted as an unofficial liaison between him and the Navy, got the branch reconsidered on the condition that Adam find a doctor for a full mental evaluation.
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Adam found a psychiatrist who ran what is known as an Axis IV Diagnosis. “It pretty much tells you, ‘Hey, this is what he has, how it affects him, how mild or severe it is and how he can or can’t work on it,'” he said.
Adam received notice that his medical exemption had been granted weeks after submitting the report to the branch, allowing him to continue the enlistment process.
Many hopeful military applicants with ADHD are faced with whether to disclose their ADHD history in the recruitment process and wonder if the benefits outweigh the potential consequences of hiding a previous diagnosis.
DOD guidelines explicitly state that applicants for enlistment must fully disclose all medical history. Applicants who lie about their medical history may be disqualified for registration. If a person is selected for enlistment based on false information, they may be subject to military prosecution or dishonorable discharge, among other actions.
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The fact is, however, that many candidates have enlisted in the armed forces after hiding or outright lying about their history of ADHD. Some people, driven by an unyielding desire to serve their country, may be inclined not to disclose their history of ADHD for fear of being disqualified. Sometimes the notion is proposed, in not so many words and
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