If you suffer from asthma and are considering joining the military, you may be concerned about your ability to enlist due to health concerns.
Unfortunately, if you are a person with asthma thinking about a career in the military, the general rule is that having asthma disqualifies you from enlisting.
Before you reconsider your career path, though, take a moment to read through this article. There are some exceptions to the rule disqualifying those with asthma from enlisting in the military, and I am going to be covering those exceptions today.
I’ll also be explaining the process of enlisting when you have asthma.
Can You Enlist With Asthma?
The military as a whole generally does not accept applicants with asthma. This is because asthma is a chronic condition that often makes it difficult to breathe.
Asthma is frequently triggered by physical activity, which means that it’s difficult to perform well in the military while suffering from this condition.
However, whether or not you will be allowed to enlist in the military while being diagnosed with asthma does vary depending on when you last experienced symptoms.
If you are currently experiencing symptoms of asthma, it won’t be possible for you to enlist in the military. However, if you were diagnosed with asthma as a child but have not experienced symptoms beyond your 13th birthday, you may be allowed to enlist.
There are also some cases where you might be successful in enlisting even if you’ve experienced asthma symptoms since the age of 13, but a medical waiver will be necessary. I will go into further detail about how to obtain such a waiver later in the article.
Enlisting In The Military Branches With Asthma
Specific branches of the military also have different requirements. If you have asthma that does not interfere with the requirements of the individual branch you wish to enlist in, you may be successful. Here are the requirements for the different branches of the military:
- The Army. The Army is one of the most difficult branches of the military to enlist in because it will not accept applicants whose ability to wear protective gear is impaired, and asthma can definitely make this difficult. Additionally, any recent emergency room visits or regular corticosteroid intake (a common treatment for asthma) results in disqualification.
- The Navy. The Navy is also quite strict in its disqualification of applicants with asthma. However, it does allow those wanting to enlist to obtain a waiver as long as they currently have no asthma symptoms and haven’t had symptoms or needed treatment for a minimum of 5 years. In addition to this, enlisters with asthma will need to produce a healthy PFT no more than 1 year after applying for the waiver and successfully complete a methacholine challenge within this time frame. Completion of the ARWG worksheet is also required.
- The Airforce. As long as you can pass the methacholine challenge, you can be accepted into the Airforce despite having a history of asthma. This test assesses how prone a person’s airways are to spasms.
- The Marines. The Marines have the same standards in place as the Navy when it comes to applicants with asthma.
- The Coastguard. If you have been approved by the MEPS, regardless of your history of asthma, you can join the Coastguard.
How To Obtain A Medical Waiver
If you have a history of asthma in your childhood or have experienced symptoms of asthma after your 13th birthday, you are likely to need a medical waiver in order to enlist in the military. If this is something you are interested in doing, you can apply for a waiver by doing the following:
- Complete and submit a prescreen form, which you can give to a military recruiter. The recruiter will then send the form on to the MEPS for further assessment. The MEPS will look at the form and decide whether to disqualify or arrange further testing.
- If your initial prescreen form is not rejected by the MEPS, you will need to either provide proof that you haven’t had asthma symptoms or treatment since the age of 13 or, if you have had symptoms since your 13th birthday, submit your medical records in their entirety.
- You will need to take a Pulmonary Function Test (PFT) and have a physical exam so that a doctor can decide whether you are currently qualified to enlist.
- After all the documentation and tests have been processed, you will have to wait for the recruiting commander to decide whether or not to request a waiver. The waiver will also have to be approved by multiple members of the relevant organization before the highest-ranking medical professional makes the final decision.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will I Be Discharged If I Develop Asthma While In The Military?
If you develop asthma during your time in the military, you won’t necessarily be discharged. First, you will be able to seek treatment and see if this improves your condition.
If the treatment does not work, you may be reassigned to a different role that is less likely to trigger your symptoms.
What Can Cause Asthma In The Military?
Being in the military can trigger symptoms of asthma, which is why branches of the military are so strict about only accepting applicants with histories of asthma if symptoms have not been present for at least 5 years, or since the age of 13.
In the military, your airways may be exposed to many irritants, from allergens to cold air, which can cause symptoms to surface or resurface.
Is Asthma A Disability?
If the symptoms of your asthma significantly impact your ability to engage in one or more major activities in your life, asthma may be classed as a disability. This is especially true if it limits your ability to work.
Having asthma can impact your ability to enlist in the military. Most of the time, any history of asthma disqualifies a person from enlisting.
However, if you have not had symptoms since the age of 13 or can prove that you are not currently experiencing symptoms, you might be able to complete documentation and undergo testing to obtain a medical waiver that allows you to enlist.
Specific restrictions and requirements for enlisting with asthma vary between branches of the military.