Written by Thomas Goering, NCCM USN(RET)
Published: April 24, 2014
Updated: November 21, 2018
Lately, well, actually, over the past few months, I have been getting a growing number of applicants, and even some recruiters, telling me via comments in the blog, social media, or via email that they are waiting on their local commands and MEPS to inform them to whether their police involvement and/or medical condition will allow them to move forward with their processing. This is actually a normal part of the processing.
The medical prescreening issue:
When an applicant has a “yes” answer on their medical prescreening form, DD Form 2807-2, Medical Prescreen of Medical History Report, the corresponding medical records must be submitted to the MEPS for review. MEPS personnel will respond with one of a few options, either, eligible to process, permanently disqualified, temporarily disqualified (usually a timeframe will be given as to how long the disqualification will be in place), or that more medical documentation is required (link updated to reflect the new MEPS timeframes).
What isn’t normal is having to wait for extended periods to get an answer. In a growing number of cases, applicants are waiting weeks, and even sometimes months, to get a response. That is unacceptable, and actually contrary to MEPCOM Regulation.
(SEE UPDATE BELOW) USMEPCOM Regulation 601-23, dated June 26, 2012, Chapter 2, Section 2 “Processing Schedule, Projections”, paragraph c.3 and c.4 states,
(3) Prescreens on applicants with medical history documentation, of 5 or less single-sided pages and with “yes” responses in any item numbers other than 12, 61, and 73 will be submitted NLT 1200 2 workdays in advance of the projected processing date. The Recruiting Service will be notified of the applicant’s status within 2 workdays of receipt of prescreen.
(4) Prescreens on applicants with medical history documentation of more than 5 single-sided pages and with “yes” responses in any item numbers other than 12, 61, and 73 will be reviewed and submitted NLT 1200 3 workdays in advance of the projected processing date. The Recruiting Service will be notified of the applicant’s status within 3 workdays of receipt of prescreen. The projection may be submitted together with the prescreen.
Item number 12 asks if contact lenses are worn, number 61 asks about braces (teeth), and 73 asks if you smoke (tobacco).
Yes, that’s right, the regulation states, “The Recruiting Service will be notified of the applicant’s status within 3 workdays of receipt of prescreen.” MAX.
The waiver prescreening issue:
It is prudent for a command to ensure recruiters are as efficient as possible. One way to do that is to ensure they are working with applicants that are otherwise best qualified. Some applicants, however, have blemishes on their record — many of those will require extra work. Sometimes those applicants get put on the backburner — that is okay, but when the time extends into weeks and months, this too becomes an unacceptable practice.
I am positive that many, perhaps even most, MEPS are following the regulation as it dictates, and that a majority of the NRDs are returning answers in a professional and timely manner, but having even one that may have excessive delays cannot be allowed, and for two very good reasons.
First and foremost, the applicant puts their life on hold while attempting to find out if they are eligible to move forward. It is easy to say, well, if they don’t like it, go do something else, but that is not the professionalism we should expect from those in uniform. We should know pretty quickly if the applicant will be able to process — either get them on deck, or tell them to move to plan “B”, but don’t just let them flounder.
Second, and the most disturbing, these excessive delays can lead to an increase in cases of fraud. One example is a comment that was posted just yesterday,
… The recruiter told them as long as she didn’t take any medicines for her conditions, she could enlist. As for the arthritis and kidney disease, he told her the military only had access to the records she gave them and they would never find out about those conditions unless she told them. So he advised her not to tell anyone and he would pretend he never heard it. He also told her that if she had problems after she enlisted, she should just pretend it was a surprise and a new and unexpected diagnosis. He also told her that the military would just say, “Oh, we’re so sorry about that diagnosis. We won’t make you repay the tuition you’ve used so far but you won’t be able to serve now. Have a good life.”
The Navy is trying to eliminate such incidents — one step was the implementation of the “Recruit with Integrity Card“, but many times, applicants are reporting that they never recieved it — they didn’t even know it existed. Maybe make it a check at MEPS? I don’t know, but we need to avoid putting good people into impossible circumstances — a majority will overcome it and live right, but regrettably, a few will try and take the “easy” way.
Working with MEPCOM should be easy — communicating with the local MEPS and attending the quarterly meetings to share concerns is a good way to move forward to reduce those times where they are a problem. I say easy because in the same cited regulation it states,
This chapter prescribes schedule policies for the operations of MEPS. The times associated within this regulation are the base from which MEPS will operate. MEPS are encouraged to expand the windows and times whenever possible in support of the recruiting mission. If a MEPS policy is more restrictive toward recruiting than what is in this regulation, then it does not meet the USMEPCOM Commander’s intent. MEPS will not establish any times or windows that are more restrictive than what is indicated in this regulation.
MEPCOM leadership is already on board.
For the NRDs, perhaps specifically reviewing procedures and how they may impact the customer’s time would be a great start. Not all would benefit because most are on top of it, but I am sure some will find efficiencies that could strengthen their organization.
Bottom line, would you want to be an applicant today?
UPDATE: According to NavyDoc, “The new timelines for prescreens are mandated by USMEPCOM as of May 6, 2018. MEPS medical departments have NO leeway whatsoever in meeting those prescreen processing deadlines. If you summit a prescreen with exactly 50 pages, MEPS medical has no more than 9 working days to complete the prescreen, no exceptions. There is no “medical department is too busy,” “Army submitted too many records,” the doctors working today are too slow” excuses allowed, since staffing for physicians is based on workload. If your prescreen is not returned from the medical department on time (medical has the formula # of pages divided by 6 = # of days to read prescreens). The longest it can ever take, for prescreens with more than 180 pages, is 30 days.”
Update: As of June 1, 2018, MEPS has a new policy for medical document prescreening timeframes. The for the new MEPS prescreen document read timeframes use the link provided.