New Asthma and ADD/ADHD Policy

Military Softens Enlistment Standards


 © The Balance, 2018

Since 2014, Department of Defense has softened their medical qualification standards for cases of childhood asthma, and history of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Children under the age of 13 can often be misdiagnosed with ADD/ADHD issues, and any asthma since the age of 13 can be disqualifying still. But presently, these previously disqualifying medical issues are now waiverable on a case by case basis.


Previously, any history of asthma was disqualifying, regardless of age. While medical waivers were sometimes possible, waiver approval usually required scheduling and passing a pulmonary function test. Under the new policy, asthma is only disqualifying if it occurs after the applicant’s 13th birthday. Some waivers were granted back then, but typically only for non-combat jobs.

Medical record screening may still be required, depending on the applicant’s medical history. However, in many cases, a signed statement, attached to the medical pre-screening form, stating that the applicant did not have any type of asthma (including exercise-induced, or allergic asthma) or treatment for asthma after their 13th birthday will be sufficient. Also having no issues with the fitness test helps in this process too — so arrive in shape with no cardio-vascular weakness.

Applicants who’ve experienced asthma or reactive airway disease after age 13 will require all medical documentation. Waivers may still be considered, depending on the applicant’s medical history and — possibly results from a pulmonary function test.


Under the old standards, any history of ADD or ADHD was disqualifying. While waivers were sometimes possible, they were among the hardest categories of waivers to get approved. Under the new standards, ADD/ADHD is disqualifying only if the applicant has been treated with ADD/ADHD medication within the previous year and/or they display signs of ADD/ADHD.

For applicants with a previous history of ADD/ADHD who have been off medication for more than one year, and they do no demonstrate significant impulse activity or inattention during MEPS processing, the MEPS examining official may find them qualified for military service without submission of a waiver.

A records review is still required. Any history of being evaluated or treated for ADD/ADHD must be documented. As a minimum, all treatment (if any) within the previous three years must be submitted to MEPS, in advance, as part of the medical pre-screening. Full medical records are required if the applicant was ever treated for ADD or ADHD with any medication other than Ritalin, Adderall, or Dexedrine, or if there were any additional psychiatric symptoms, such as, but not limited to, depression.

MEPS may require school transcripts to demonstrate acceptable academic performance for the year without medication. If treatment for ADD/ADHD occurred throughout the school environment but wasn’t stopped until after the applicant left school, there is still the possibility of waiver consideration.

Drug Issues with ADD/ADHD

The most common of these drugs are Ritalin and Adderall. Adderall is often over-prescribed as well as over-used by college-aged men and women. In fact, the use of Adderall is reaching epidemic proportions among over-stressed high achievers as a go-to drug to perform at a higher standard in both academics and athletics.

If there is a documented use of Adderall in a non-prescribed basis — as in an emergency room visit — with such side effects as high blood pressure, stroke, or other aggressively disruptive behavior,  you will likely be unable to obtain a waiver. Waivers are only reviewed on a doctor prescribed program for minor attention deficit issues.  Any depression, bipolar disorder, or other mental health problems associated with some ADD/ADHD diagnosis tips the scale into an area of medically disqualifying issues that are not waiverable.


One of the reasons why the military is easing its stance on ADD/ADHD is because more than 30 percent of kids diagnosed with ADHD outgrow the symptoms by adulthood. However, sometimes childhood symptoms get converted into anxiety and nervous tension. These are the issues why the military must consider these waivers on a case by case basis.

However, many of adults with undiagnosed ADHD develop ways to manage some of their challenges and are capable adults and can be excellent members of the military. If you still feel focus, overwhelm, and distraction are a problem, consider coping methods such as schedules, daily to-do lists, and mediation to relax. Often daily exercise can help you cope with this nervous energy that distracts you from your goals.