Written by Thomas Goering, NCCM USN(RET)
Published: September 17, 2009
Updated: July 25, 2021
Over the past couple of years, I have received a large number of emails asking me about the waiver process for medical issues. The Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) may have already permanently disqualified the individual, or is concerned they may have a condition which force them to endure the process and anxiety of the medical waiver.
First of all, the approval of a medical waiver is the responsibility of the Commander, Navy Recruiting Command (CNRC). The Admiral makes a decision with input from a qualified medical authority.
To dispel a myth, Navy Recruiting does not use the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) to make recommendations for an individual’s physical/psychological condition to enter enlisted Naval service.
Nearly a decade ago, in an effort to reduce applicant waiting time (which often times extended three months or more), CNRC added to the staff a medical department. Commander, Navy Recruiting Command’s medical staff (CNRC N3M) which includes a doctor and a small cadre of Navy Corpsman who work at the CNRC headquarters in Millington, Tn. now makes the medical recommendations to the Admiral in a fraction of the time.
You first must be permanently disqualified (PDQ) by the MEPS medical department. The disqualification could come from your initial medical document reading (you do not make a trip to MEPS), or during your physical at the MEPS. Temporary disqualifications are not reviewed for medical waivers. If the MEPS PDQ’d you based on the medical documents submitted, MEPS will not allow you to process further – CNRC N3M must direct MEPS to provide a physical only if they feel a waiver is possible. N3M’s direction to MEPS may also include additional consultations (a visit to an outside specialist like an orthopedic doctor or a cardiologist).
Note: You need to be prepared to make more than one visit to MEPS depending on consultation requirements.
Once the final results of the MEPS physical and consultations are complete (including blood work), those results will be sent to N3M for review. N3M will then make a recommendation to the Admiral (usually within 3-5 days depending on backload).
If the MEPS PDQ’d you during the physical then N3M may direct further testing via consultation, or make a final recommendation to the Admiral for approval or disapproval without further medical tests.
I hope this helps you understand the process for a medical waiver, and hopefully make it a little less intimidating. As always, feel free to email your questions!
Waiver Process for Prior Drug and/or Alcohol Dependency
If you have been psychologically or physically dependent upon drugs or alcohol, recruiting personnel may request a Commander, Navy Recruiting Command eligibility determination when the pre-service dependency has been resolved in such a way that there is little likelihood that such behavior will recur. Your MEPS physical must include a psychiatric consultation.
Although medical waivers are very rare for previous drug or alcohol dependency, you may be considered a good risk for entry into the Navy if:
- a. You have successfully abstained from drugs and alcohol for more than two years,
- b. Your employment history or school attendance subsequent to rehabilitation is favorable, and
- c. You appear well motivated.
- d. A minimum of two years has elapsed since release from treatment.
Note 1: Where corrected in the post, the comments may still refer to CNRC 00M, 00M is now known as CNRC N3M – the function is still the same. As of January 30, 2012, N3M is still known as N3M, but is listed as N33 in the organizational chart.
Note 2: The advice and prognostications delivered in the comments by NavyDoc are based on his years of experience as a MEPS Chief Medical Officer, and he is only able take into account the information you provide, so for a more definitive response, ensure you are thorough with the description of your issue(s).
Note 3: The information contained in the comments is very extensive; your question may have already been addressed – read before posting. Thank you!
If you have hypothyroidism that is controlled by medication, and you have two normal thyroid stimulating hormone tests within the preceding 6 months, you do not require a waiver for the condition because it is NOT disqualifying. You will be able to continue your medication for the condition during boot-camp.