A common childhood illness is a common worry for the brave people who want to serve their country. More than 25 million Americans suffer from asthma today and they come from all backgrounds, races, and genders. The answer to this question is probably yes, thankfully, but it is a little more complicated than that.
It has a lot to do with when you suffered from asthma if you still suffer from it to this day as an adult, and how it affects your day-to-day life.
Aspiring soldiers must undergo medical testing when enlisting as well as an examination of their medical records, so it is good to know when asthma will not be a problem and how best to check that you can dream big and serve your country.
What is asthma as far as the military is concerned?
Most people understand what we mean when we say asthma – it is a common respiratory condition that affects 7.7% of American adults and 8.4% of American children today and that has become more common every decade in every group of people. To put it another way, 1 in every 13 people are affected by asthma.
However, the military has a specific definition for what asthma is – they have no interest if you suffered from a tight chest when you were a kid and had to sit out of gym class every few weeks. Since 2004, they have been concerned with whether you have suffered from asthmatic symptoms since your 13th birthday. If you haven’t, then it is very probable that you will not have any problems joining the military and working to ensure the safety of American citizens.
It makes no difference if you were treated for asthma from the ages of 4 to 8 or 7 to 12 – if you can prove that you have not received medication or any other kind of medical support since your 13th birthday, you are not an asthma sufferer according to the military definitions.
When could asthma be a problem in military service?
Yes, if you read older resources. In the past, it was practically impossible to enlist if you had ever shown any signs of asthma, similarly to other conditions like inflammatory bowel diseases or hearing loss. However, unlike these conditions, asthma is generally not a lifelong condition and many individuals grow out of it.
People very rarely grow out of the symptoms of Crohn’s disease or deafness, so their hopes of joining the military are unlikely to be successful. As such, asthma is not as much of a stumbling block as it once was. As of 2004, recruits who have not shown symptoms since their 13th birthday are not considered to have asthma by military recruitment standards.
In terms of active service, there are multiple situations where an asthmatic soldier might be a problem for his unit. Recent deployments for American soldiers have been too hostile environments; dry, hot, and dusty. We also live in a world where weaponry such as smoke bombs and tear gas canisters can be encountered in a warm environment.
These weapons can cause significant breathing issues for asthmatics, so it is not a safe environment for that individual or their unit. Think about it – if you start to have an asthma attack in an active engagement, you may not be able to administer your medicine and another member of your team will be pulled out of position.
If you are a medic, now your unit is without a medic and could be in serious danger. The refusal to enlist those suffering from asthma is not a point of discrimination against those who suffer from respiratory issues – this is about ensuring the safety of those who are in war zones and that they can protect others that they are bound in duty with.
Can I lie about not having asthma in the military?
Now, it is important that you declare that you suffered from asthma, especially if you still have ongoing treatment such as inhalers – failing to do so could lead to complications down the line.
As general advice, lying about your medical, financial, or criminal records when joining the military is a terrible idea and can lead to a dishonorable discharge, forfeiting pay and benefits, loss of pension, and possibly even legal action.
If you did not have a criminal record before, it is very possible that you will get one by lying about asthma you suffered from when you were in middle school.
Also, a dishonorable discharge carries the same social and legal restrictions as some felony charges – you would be barred from using, possessing, or owning firearms; you may struggle to find employment due to the discharge appearing on your background checks, and you will be unable to take part in any future military activities.
Is it worth it? No, not really. Don’t lie when applying to the military.
You will have to undergo a medical test when enrolling with the military anyway, so your asthma will show up if it affects you to this day. A much better course of action would be to openly discuss your asthma with the doctor performing the medical.
You will get a chance to explain that it doesn’t affect your life anymore or that you cope with it in your day to day life. It is important to know that suffering from asthma actively after the age of 13 will probably require you to get your hands on a medical waiver form.
What is a waiver?
If you have a condition or have committed a crime that would usually mean you couldn’t work in the military, you might be able to get a waiver. This waiver will be given out by the doctor who reports to the branch of the military that you are applying to. It will have to say that you are capable of serving in the military despite your condition or past.
How do I get a waiver for asthma?
The best way to obtain a waiver is to go through the appropriate channels and get it from the doctor who performs the medical. Before you get excited, if you still suffer seriously from asthma, you are unlikely to pass the medical regardless of how much you want it or are otherwise capable.
If the Military Entrance Processing Station (or MEPS) decides that your condition is too severe to serve active duty, there won’t be much you can do about it for that specific branch of the military. If you can convince the Surgeon General that you are not as sick as it appears from your medical records, it may be possible that you will get a chance.
However, he is a medical professional, not you. The military will not likely take kindly to you challenging the word of their top doctors without a very good reason.
Related: Can you Join the Military with a Criminal Record?.