Joining the military is a calling for many people. There are many great reasons to join the military, including service to your country, training, adventure, benefits such as the GI Bill or VA Loan, good pay, an excellent retirement system, and much more.
While there are many benefits to joining the military, it’s not always easy to get in. The military requires applicants to be in good health, meet certain medical requirements, meet fitness and weight standards, have certain levels of education, pass a background check, acquire a security clearance, and not have a significant history of drug or alcohol abuse.
According to some estimates, approximately 7 out of 10 American youth are ineligible to serve in the US military (source 1; source 2). The reasons are many. The three primary reasons for disqualification include being overweight (32%), other health reasons excluding weight (27%), and education (30% of youth who take the Armed Forces Qualifying Test fail).
Note: numbers exceed the stated 70% rate because many potential recruits have overlapping disqualifying factors. See MissionReadiness.org for more research and information on this topic.
Some Barriers to Military Entrance Can Be Overcome
None of this is written to sound the doom and gloom alarm. Getting into the military is possible. But it can be difficult. Many disqualifying factors can be overcome, and some can be waived.
For example, 32% of the potential applicant pool is overweight. There are numerous stories of individuals losing over 100 pounds in order to be eligible to join the military (110 lbs, 150 lbs, 160 lbs, 180 lbs, 200 lbs, ) There may also be medical waivers for many medical conditions (more on this topic later in the article).
It’s also possible to increase one’s education in order to earn a high enough score on the ASVAB to be eligible to join the military. There are also waivers for many other disqualifying factors.
Unfortunately, some factors can’t be overcome. Certain medical conditions are not eligible for waivers. You can’t undo a criminal history. History of past drug or alcohol abuse may make one ineligible.
In all cases, military applicants should work closely with their recruiters to fill out the required application paperwork, including the military application, medical pre-screen form, background check, etc.
Should I Lie to Join the Military?
No, please don’t.
OK, you deserve a more detailed answer than a simple, “no.”
How about this:
Lying to join the military is a fraudulent enlistment and can result in a felony conviction.
Yes, you need to be caught in the lie, but that isn’t as difficult as you might think. Lying about your past drug use? Your background check might turn that up. Lying about your medical history? A future injury in the line of duty may turn up a history of past injuries.
As soon as these discrepancies turn up, the military may decide to simply kick you out for fraudulent enlistment. If you’re lucky, you’ll simply get an administrative, other than honorable, or dishonorable discharge. If you’re unlucky, you could be convicted of a felony, punishable by a $10,000 fine and three years in prison.
All of this is clearly spelled out in your enlistment documents.
You can look this up in Article 104a of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ):
1) procures his own enlistment or appointment in the armed forces by knowingly false representation or deliberate concealment as to his qualifications for the enlistment or appointment and receives pay or allowances thereunder; or
(2) procures his own separation from the armed forces by knowingly false representation or deliberate concealment as to his eligibility for that separation;
But My Recruiter Told Me to Lie!
Let’s get one thing straight: the vast majority of military recruiters are honest, hard-working individuals. Their goal is to help their branch of service find the next generation of servicemembers to keep our military strong. But some recruiters give in to pressure to meet quotas and may encourage recruits to “forget” part of their history, or even outright lie to gain entry into the military.
Don’t do it!
“My recruiter told me to lie,” is not a valid excuse for lying on your enlistment papers. You are the person who signs your enlistment documents. You verify that your statements are true and accurate. You would be the person who could be dismissed from the military for a fraudulent enlistment and possibly be convicted of a felony.
If your recruiter encourages you to lie, please ask if there are waivers for the issue at hand. There are waivers for many disqualifying factors. You can get waivers for education, certain medical conditions, some legal or moral issues (such as past drug use), and other factors.
Note: Legal issues can be expunged or sealed. That does not mean you shouldn’t report them on your enlistment papers – in many cases, waivers can be had; if waivers are not available, you are better of not joining under a fraudulent enlistment.
Some recruiters may tell you not to bother with a waiver because it may not be approved. Lying is faster and easier, and they won’t admit it, but lying reduces their workload and helps them hit their quotas.
Get everything in writing from your recruiter.
If your recruiter is pressuring you to lie, then look for another recruiter. You could also report the situation to the recruiter’s supervising office, or the Inspector General for the branch of service you are trying to join.
Should I Lie About My Medical History to Get Into the Military?
There are several areas of the military application where it is easy to make mistakes, and several where you may think it makes sense to tell a lie. One of those is the DD Form 2807-2, or the Medical Pre-Screen form. This is where you provide your personal medical history to MEPS, the Military Entrance Processing Station. A MEPS doctor will review your application and medical history and recommend you for entrance to the military, or disqualify you based on your medical history.
There are two types of medical disqualifications – a permanent disqualification (PDQ), and a temporary disqualification (TDQ).
These names are slightly misleading – a PDQ doesn’t always mean you can never serve in the military. It simply means the disqualifying condition is permanent.
For example, you cannot “undo” a surgery. That surgery is permanent, even if you are healed. That is where waivers come into play. Some medical conditions are eligible for waivers.
A TDQ is a temporary condition. An example could be a broken bone. You wouldn’t be able to attend basic military training if you have a broken finger. But you may otherwise be eligible once it heals.
Reader Question About Being Advised to Lie About His Medical History
The following is a reader question:
I had read your article on The Military Wallet that you had written on “How to Get a Medical Waiver in the Military.” I found it very informative as well as useful. Although, I have not been able to draw any solid conclusions so far as to the DoD-I regulations as well as the PULHES code listed in your article.
I have a pre-existing medical condition that I know already is a PDQ, (permanent disqualification) but I am wondering if my condition is still waiverable. I am hesitant on moving forward at this point because I am unsure if my condition is waiverable or not. As you had mentioned before if my condition is not waiverable then I am wasting everyone’s time.
I am in a slightly moral conflict because I do not want to lie on my application as far as the medical history or at all for that matter, even though my recruiter is essentially telling me to lie on my application. Saying that, “If it is not a problem anymore then you can put ‘No’ on the application.”
In reference to form 2807-2. Another statement that I was told was, “If it wasn’t documented then it never happened.”
Is it worth lying on any of the paperwork? If it is found, then firstly, it is a dishonorable discharge for fraudulent enlistment; then secondly, that will go with me for the rest of my life. This would be due to the fact of failure to disclose any and all information. Even then it would be difficult to get a job flipping burgers at McDonald’s. I would assume no in this case because it would cause me to be constantly looking over my shoulder. Especially for thorough background checks for secret or top secret security clearances.
I would like to know if I am able to get a waiver for this situation and or how to go about doing it exactly? I would appreciate any and all information you could point me to or any advice you could give me. I am extremely passionate about serving my country and serving in the Navy.
How Should One Respond to the Above Situation?
This is an interesting situation. It appears as though the recruiter is encouraging him to lie to gain entrance to the military. As we have already covered, this is not a good idea.
Here is how I would handle this (please understand that I don’t speak for MEPS, recruiters, or the DoD. The article is based only on my personal experiences and the process of applying for a waiver. Based on this, I can’t comment on specific waivers, only the process).
Be Truthful, Even if It Means You Can’t Join the Military
My recommendation is to be completely truthful on your application. As you stated in your message, getting caught in a fraudulent enlistment is a big deal and can result in a dishonorable discharge and other nasty consequences. The 2807-2 requires you to verify your statements before signing, and you will be reminded multiple times at MEPS—both verbally and in writing. Lying on official government documents just isn’t worth it.
Again, I can’t comment on the likelihood of a waiver for your medical history. But the process would work like this: you would need to list your medical history on the 2807-2, then also attach a written statement from a medical professional (on his or her letterhead), stating your current medical/health status and the medical professional’s opinion of whether or not you are fit to serve in the military.
The doctors at MEPS will then make a determination about your status and whether or not they are able to issue a waiver, or if they need additional information. The process can take months and sometimes there is back and forth if the MEPS doctors require additional information to make their decision.
Your recruiter would be the point of contact for working waivers, and you should listen to your recruiter in that regard (as long as your recruiter is advising you to do the right thing).
If You Don’t Get Accepted into the Military
Not receiving a waiver would be a disappointment, but don’t let it get you down. Not getting in is better than being accepted under a fraudulent enlistment, then later being kicked out and receiving a dishonorable discharge (or worse).
Of course, there is also the disappointment of not being able to serve your country in the military. But there are many ways you can serve your country, including through the federal civil service or state or local government.
There are many civilian jobs that work for and with the military. You may not have the exact same experience, but there are also some benefits to being in the federal service.
Some agencies would work directly with the Navy, while others may work with other government or military agencies. So those types of jobs may be worth looking into. Law enforcement, emergency response, customs, homeland security, firefighting, Transportation Security Administration (TSA), etc. There are many ways to serve outside of the military.
I know I haven’t given you any firm answers here, but right now, those answers don’t exist. You need to apply to MEPS and receive their response on your Medical Pre-Screen before you can apply for a waiver. After you do that, it’s out of your hands. My hope is that this helps you do the right thing, even if it doesn’t work out the way you want it to. There are other great careers out there that would allow you to serve your community and country.
I wish you the best!