Let me start off by saying approximately 70% of young Americans are not qualified to serve. Part of that 70% are disqualified because of a medical condition. The Department of Defense Medical Evaluation Review Board (DODMERB) is the process that all US Military Officer candidates go through to ensure they are medically qualified to serve. Service Academy applicants and ROTC candidates are required to go through the process. It is a process that usually generates a good number of questions from students contemplating service. In my years as an Enrollment Officer I have spent plenty of time helping applicants determine where they stand, and helping them craft rebuttals and waiver requests.
The DODMERB process begins with the physical. Typically you will be directed to the DODMETS website (Do not begin this process until directed to), where you will fill out your medical history, download your required forms, and identify the contract physicians or Military Treatment Facility (MTF) that will conduct your examinations. You will take a physical and eye exam at the Army’s expense at the contracted doctor closest to your house. You are not authorized to have a doctor of your choice do the physical.
When you fill out your medical history online you should identify any medical condition you have had in the past. My understanding is that the online medical history program asks the basic questions, and will intuitively ask the follow up if it identifies issues with your answers or answers that needs more explaination.
When you go for your exams you should be prepared to explain the status and prognosis of any medical condition you identified on your medical history form. If you don’t do that at the time of your exam, you may receive what is known as a remedial. A remedial is a request for additional information. It may be a request for actual medical records regarding a condition or injury, and it may just be a statement or explaination regarding something on your medical history. An example of this would be history of headaches. You may have checked the yes block on your medical history where it asks if you suffer from headaches. You answered the question truthfully, but your headaches are not serious. If the doctor overlooks your affirmative answer, and neglects to explain on the examination form that the headaches are not significant, DODMERB may pick this up, and ask you to fill out a form explaining your headaches. It is fairly common for DODMERB to ask to see medical records regarding sports injuries like knee or shoulder surgeries or histories of significant medical care. You may also be sent for additional tests for things like allergies or breathing difficulty issues.
DODMERB is governed by a black and white regulation. If the regulation says diagnosis of asthma after the age of 13 is a disqualifier, then if you were diagnosed with asthma after the age of 13 you are DQ. The fact that you ran a marathon last week, or that you are a really good person that is able to live a normal life with asthma doesn’t change the fact you were diagnosed, or the fact that diagnosis is a disqualifier. The regulation DODMERB uses to make their decision is DoD Instruction 6130.03, April 28, 2010. You can look right in the reg and see whether your condition is a disqualifier or not. There is plenty of rumor and mythology surrounding the process, but in my years of dealing with the process, when it comes down to it, it is very predictable and straight forward once you understand it.
There is also a failure to disclose disqualifier. If DODMERB asks for all your medical records after the age of 12, because you said you had a skin rash, and upon reviewing those records they notice the word asthma a number of times, and you failed to check yes for history of asthma you will have some additional explaining to do, and may be disqualified for failure to disclose.
Here is a link that you may find useful.
In part Two I will cover what to do if you are disqualified and explain the waiver process.