Joining a military academy is an exciting journey but navigating the medical clearance process can be challenging. One crucial part of joining is undergoing medical examinations, and this process can be somewhat perplexing, particularly for high school students.

In this detailed guide, we’ll delve into the nitty-gritty of medical clearances, the role of the Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board (DoDMERB), and how to navigate potential medical disqualifications.

What Does DoDMERB Medical Clearance Entail?

Medical clearance is a fundamental part of military academy admission processes. It involves undergoing a medical history, along with two examinations to start to determine if a candidate is fit for military service. Here, we cover automatic medical disqualifiers for service academies and the process of obtaining waivers.

We also offer an online DoDMERB course and one-on-one help for more in-depth guidance on this process to help you steer clear of critical mistakes during this crucial process.

Decoding DoDMERB – the Acronyms

What is DoDMERB?

DoDMERB is the agency responsible for your medical clearance for your service academy application. DoDMERB is the Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board. It’s a big organization and a big bureaucracy so you can expect the entire process to take extra time and effort!

What is DoDMETS?

DoDMETS is an online system that tracks your medical status. DoDMETS is the Department of Defence Medical Exam Testing System. This is the system that tracks exams, making sure scheduling happens, and helping you complete all the medical requirements for DoDMERB.

Helpful Links

The DoDMERB Timeline

For the Service Academies, you won’t begin the medical qualification portion of your application until the Academy or Academies you’re applying to believe you’re a serious candidate.

After all, the DoDMERB exam is at tax payer expense, and with over 10,000 applicants per academy, that would be additional money and man hours spent on candidates who may not be serious about completing their applications.

Each academy has a different threshold for when they initiate the process, but in general, once you complete a majority of your application, they will forward your name to DoDMERB to get started. This usually means completing some combination of the following:

  • SAT/ACT scores are submitted and meet minimum requirements
  • You completed your essay(s)
  • You’ve submitted names for teacher evaluations and/or letters of recommendation
  • Your resume is complete through the portal (Candidate Activity Record, Extracurriculars, etc.)
  • You completed the Candidate Fitness Assessment
  • Your high school transcripts were sent in
  • The application was submitted

Summer – Winter of Senior Year of High School

Applications Open: With West Point and the Naval Academy opening their applications in May/June and Air Force Academy opening in July, you have an opportunity to complete a majority of the application during early to mid summer.

Hit the threshold: If the academy decides you’re a serious candidate, they will forward your name to DoDMERB. You’ll receive an email from the online medical questionnaire letting you know you can set up your account (DoDMETS).

Fill out Medical History Questionnaire: Once you create your DoDMETS logon, you can complete your entire medical history. You’ll be asked questions that cover your entire medical history from birth. We STRONGLY recommend students do this with a parent.

Schedule two exams: After submitting medical history, you’ll be able to schedule your optometry exam and physical exam, two separate appointments.

Attend exams and wait two weeks (at least): After your exams are both done, the results of the exams and your questionnaire are both sent to DoDMERB (an agency that sits in Colorado Springs). Your DoDMERB technician has two weeks to determine your status. Sometimes this takes longer if they are backed up. (The longer you wait, the more candidates are ahead of you).

Get your result: Your DoDMERB technician will classify you as qualified, disqualified, or remedial.

If remedial, send in additional information or get additional testing done. If disqualified, seek a waiver from the Service Academy. Pay special attention to the section below that each Service Academy grants their own waiver – DoDMERB does not make decisions about waivers – the doctor at the Service Academy you’re applying to does. DoDMERB is more or less an information conduit that sends everything between you and the Academy after they’ve made a determination on your qualification status.

Spring of Senior Year of High School

If you’re seeking a waiver, the academies generally have a deadline to be medically qualified by April 15th of the year you’re entering the Academy. Be proactive to get any required documentation into the right authority. Waivers can take months, so it’s important to give the medical teams at each academy enough time to work through your file.

Common DoDMERB Medical Disqualifications

Many candidates wonder what the most common disqualifiers are. Despite some conditions being disqualifiers, there is still hope. Depending on your specific situation, some conditions are eligible for waivers. It depends on the Academy and the year you’re applying (every situation is different). More on this below.

Understanding the Disqualifiers

Outlined below are some of the common conditions that could disqualify a candidate from joining the service academies, according to DoD Instruction 6130.03:

  • Vision –
    • Your vision must be correctable to 20/20.
    • PRK and LASIK can disqualify unless specific preoperative conditions are met and you finished the procedure at least 180 days before the DoDMERB exam.
  • Currently have braces
  • Hearing levels outside of acceptable standards for commissioning
  • Food allergies (fish, shellfish, peanut, or tree nuts)
  • Skin conditions including psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and eczema (after the age of 9)
  • Mental health conditions including a history of depression or anxiety requiring medication (within the last 36 months)
  • Learning disorders after the 14th birthday (ex. IEPs, 504 Plans or work accommodations)
  • Asthma (after the 13th birthday)
  • Bronchospasm (after the 13th birthday)
  • Heart abnormalities and defects
  • Bedwetting and urinary tract abnormalities (within the past 24 months)
  • Hepatitis
  • IBS
  • Scoliosis
  • Major joint issues
  • ACL reconstruction
  • Seizure disorders after the age of 5
  • Recurrent or severe headaches
  • ADD/ADHD

Always initiate the medical clearance process early if you have a known issue that may result in disqualification. This way, you’ll have enough time to work through a potential medical waiver.

(We give additional information on how you can initiate the DoDMERB medical history and exam process below)

Start the DoDMERB Process Early!

It can take a long time to get your physical and eye exam scheduled, up to 30 days. We recommend scheduling the physical and eye exam as early as possible. However, there are different requirements for each service academy so it’s important to understand what steps you need to take to initiate your clearance with DoDMERB.

You only need to go through DoDMERB once, even if you’re applying to multiple Service Academies and ROTC scholarships.

Scheduling your DoDMERB Physical Exam

You’ll have three options for scheduling your physical:

  • Concorde contractor
  • Medical Treatment Facility
  • Private doctor

The first two options are both paid for by the government, but if you choose to use your own doctor you’ll need to pay out of pocket for the exam.

When you get correspondence from DoDMERB once your physical is complete, you could hear 1 of 3 things:

  • Qualified – (also called Q) Congrats, you passed the medical process!
  • Disqualified – (also called DQ) There is a condition that does not meet medical standards, however there is still a chance you may be granted a waiver. It’s not the end of the world and just another hurdle in the application process to overcome.
  • Remedial – More information is needed before DoDMERB can make a decision either way. Make sure you take care of the extra requirements quickly.

Through the process of going through DoDMERB, you might receive a disqualification code or a remedial code. You can look up what these mean on the DoDMERB website here. (For 2023, the website was down for many months, and DoDMERB took a long time to catch up. This significantly impacted the timeline for candidates with no medical issues to receive qualified status, let alone those requiring waivers) Apply early to make sure you’re not impacted by slow downs in the future!

Follow Instructions for each Service Academy

Each Service Academy has slightly different methods to get the medical clearance process started. Just by opening an application with an Academy does not mean a candidate will start this process. Candidates must make progress on their applications first. Understanding these differences is key to making sure you are able to complete everything on time!

USAFA

In order to start the DoDMERB process, submit your candidate kit. This means having completed the following items:

  • Entered in points of contact for your:
    • Candidate Fitness Assessment
    • Teacher Evaluations
    • Letters of Recommendation
  • Completion of your Air Force Academy resume and extracurriculars
  • Completion of your three USAFA essays
  • Finalized all personal information in the application

Find out more specifics on the USAFA medical requirements page.

West Point

The DoDMERB process will start once you have started an admissions file and passed the initial screening process.

USNA

The Naval Academy will initiate DoDMERB once you’ve submitted your application, similar to the Air Force Academy. USNA has pretty decent guidance regarding medical requirements in their medical appendix.

Honesty is Key

Be honest with your providers. Nothing good can come of hiding conditions. The academies will withdraw your application and prevent and disqualify you from applying again.

If you are honest about a condition upfront you may have time to work a waiver. The more time you can provide to get a waiver for your medical condition the better.

Each Service Academy Grants their own Waivers

Medical waivers allow applicants to enter military service programs even though they may not have met DoD medical standards. Waivers may be granted by the program to which you’re applying, NOT DoDMERB. The Service Academies consider applicants for a medical waiver only if they are competitive for admission. You’ll receive communication from the Academy informing you if they are pursuing a waiver or not. These waivers are Service (Army, Navy, Force) specific.

You will receive instructions from each academy relayed through DoDMERB, directing DoDMERB to request additional tests, studies, or medical records/information. If this happens, it’s important to get these additional tests done as quickly as possible as the process can sometimes be quite lengthy.

The doctors at each Service Academy receive all the documentation through DoDMERB to grant waivers, so it’s very important to complete all requirements through DoDMERB.

 

Article Contents

Discover Top Service Academy Medical Disqualifiers

A guide to help you determine if you'll be disqualified

Dr. Bill Corr

Dr. Bill Corr, a West Point alumnus and retired U.S. Army colonel, is a leading authority on navigating the Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board (DoDMERB) process.

His unique insights, drawn from years of medical service in the Army, enable him to provide clear, effective guidance to those facing the often daunting medical clearance hurdles. Whether addressing common medical disqualifiers or navigating the waiver process, Dr. Corr's advice is both accessible and invaluable for aspiring Service Academy candidates.

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