Another of the most common questions we get is “Can I Join the Army with Asthma?”. This article answers that question and outlines why asthma may keep you from joining the U.S. Army.
When a person joins the Army, medical history is part of the enlistment process. In addition to providing a detailed medical history, the recruit must also undergo a thorough medical exam by a physician at MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station).
There are multiple conditions that can disqualify someone from Army service. In the past, it was virtually impossible to serve in the Army if there had been a previous diagnosis of asthma. Asthma is one of those conditions that can be fatal in basic training so those individuals that are not clear cut are not given a waiver. If you have asthma, you are PDQ, no waiver authorized. PDQ stands for Permanently Disqualified for military service.
While current asthma cases are generally not allowed, there have been more leniencies granted towards those who suffered from asthma in the past but are no longer afflicted with the condition.
If the recruit has not had any asthma symptoms or been treated for asthma beyond his 13th birthday, he is generally considered not to have asthma by Army recruitment standards. He will be allowed to join through an enlistment process that is the same as it is for someone who has never had asthma.
If he has experienced asthma symptoms or been treated for asthma later than his 13th birthday, he may still be allowed to join but a medical waiver will be necessary. Whether the waiver is granted is based on factors such as the severity of his asthma, when the last treatment or symptoms occurred and his general prognosis with the condition.
The results of a pulmonary function test (or PFT) may also be used in making the decision about a waiver. Any required testing will be provided at no expense to the recruit.
In the event of a medical waiver, previous medical records will be requested. They may request medical records at any time in order to prove that asthma has not been an issue since his 13th birthday.
For this reason, it is imperative that the recruit is completely honest throughout the process about his medical history.
Lying or otherwise misrepresenting his medical background can have serious consequences when it is discovered.
You can review Army Regulation 40–501 – Standards of Medical Fitness for more information. But, this is basically what is says:
The disqualifying medical conditions are listed below. Unless otherwise stipulated, the conditions listed below, are those that would be disqualifying by virtue of current diagnosis, or for which the candidate has a verified past medical history.
Asthma (493), including reactive airway disease, exercise-induced bronchospasm or asthmatic bronchitis, reliably diagnosed and symptomatic after the 13th birthday, does not meet the standard. Reliable diagnostic criteria may include any of the following elements: substantiated history of cough, wheeze, chest tightness, and/or dyspnea that persists or recurs over a prolonged period of time, generally more than 12 months.
Our Command Surgeon has stated “Any history of asthma is disqualifying”. Asthma in early childhood may be “outgrown”, and may be waived if occurred at less than 13 years of age with no recurrence. If the applicant currently has symptoms of asthma, then a waiver would not be granted. Asthma is one of those conditions that can be fatal in basic training so those individuals that are not clear cut are not waived.