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Do I even stand a chance?

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  • Do I even stand a chance?

    I know these questions crop up all the time, but I'd greatly appreciate any help I can get.

    Does anyone know if the California requirements on medical waivers have loosened at all in the past year? I tried talking to an active Army recruiter around this time last year and didn't have the best luck in the medical department. I decided to wait and try again later, and after more research eventually decided the Guard would be the best fit for me. Which brings me to my current predicament:

    I was on an SSRI through college for anxiety (it did more harm than good, and eventually I woke up and got off of them completely) and two years ago I was treated for a rare, mild cancer.

    I'm 24, female, have a Bachelor's degree and a 97 on the practice ASVAB, no criminal record and it's been two years since I've been off my meds and two years since my surgery/radiation treatments. I want to enlist in the CAARNG as a 68W. (Not interested in 09S/OCS.)

    I have more than enough supporting paperwork from surgeons, radiologists and doctors to prove that the tumor was fully removed and that the radiation was a "just in case", and that the odds of it coming back are almost nil. It was also not in a major organ (salivary gland). Everything is functional and as it should be now (except for the amazing three inch scar down my neck - would I need a waiver for that too? It's pretty visible).

    My real problem is with the anxiety diagnosis. Having a BS in Psychology now and looking back, I strongly feel I was misdiagnosed (and some of the things the psychiatrist said in the records are pretty scathing - he describes things I don't even remember telling him, and other things are inconsistent with what I did tell him). Except I get the feeling that in a me vs the psychiatrist situation, the psychiatrist would win.

    Is there anything I can do to counteract that black mark on my medical history? Right now I'm in great shape physically and mentally - I have a degree, a steady job, plans for graduate school, a test date for the GRE, I'm a cyclist/rock climber/kayaker in my free timeÖ all obtained after separating from the medication. What are they looking for here? This isn't an OCS app, so letters of recommendation probably wouldn't help. I'm totally at a loss. I was toying with the idea of a psych re-evaluation, but I don't know if I need to go back to the same psychiatrist or a neutral third party. I can also prove that my being medicated did horrible things to my grades and my ability to function (the opposite of what it was supposed to do - I bounced back to normal after a few months of being off of them), but again, I'm not sure it's enough, and it's correlational at best.

    Sorry for the wall of text. I'm just terrified of stepping into a recruiter's office because it might be "too soon" after all this medical mess. I feel like I've been sitting on my hands for a year, but at the same time I've been waiting for this for too long to mess it up because of some bad timing or misinformation. The last thing I want is to be shooed out the door with a "don't call us, we'll call you."

    Thanks for your understanding or any information you might have.

  • #2
    Re: Do I even stand a chance?

    If joining the guard is something you really want to do then don't let the "what if...?" questions get in the way. Take the first step and talk with a recruiter- be completely honest with whatever questions you get asked. The people who make the call about your ability to serve will be the doctors at MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station). They will go over your entire medical history from the day you were born to now and look for things that would hinder your ability to serve in the military. If they deem it necessary they might send you through a psych eval so there's no need to get a 3rd party opinion (unless for some reason your recruiter thinks it may help- I don't have experience in that arena).

    The best thing to do would be to go for it and be persistent through the enlistment process. The worst they can do is turn you down but at least you can say you tried.


    • #3
      Re: Do I even stand a chance?

      Bottom line upfront. Donít wait! Go talk to a recruiter and determine whether that individual is willing to work with you. You have described a medical history that contains two disqualifying conditions under the provisions of AR 40-501, Standards of Medical Fitness, Chapter Two, Physical Standards for Enlistment, Appointment and Induction (see paras 2-27 and 2-31). These standards apply for active duty and National Guard alike. As you mentioned above, if you proceed with enlisting you will need to obtain a waiver, based off the recommendation of the doctors at MEPS. Depending on the nature of their recommendation, the waiver approval authority could be as high as the Chief Surgeon of the Army National Guard. There will be a lot of waiting for a response, even in the best scenario. The supporting documentation from your physicians that you mentioned above will be critical, but even then you will more than likely be referred for a consult with ANOTHER physician to determine the current status of both your conditions. This is best case. Worst case is that you receive a permanent DQ at MEPS or a disapproval from the waiver authority for either one or both conditions.

      Again, donít wait! Either you are successful and can start your journey as a Soldier, or youíre not but can proceed with your life plans knowing you gave 100% to your goal of enlisting. Waiting increases the likelihood that you will not be approved, as DoD and the military services face an immediate future of more limited budgets and a drawdown of forces. Good luck.

      Mandatory disclosure: I am not a doctor, nor am I affiliated with the CA Army National Guard. I am an active duty officer and have not been involved with recruiting for almost nine years. My response is based on a reading of the most current version of AR 40-501, two years of recruiting duty, two decades of military service, and my opinion of the current recruiting environment.


      • #4
        Re: Do I even stand a chance?

        Thanks for the advice. It was pretty much in line with what I was expecting to hear, but it was still nice to hear it.

        I started the online application this week and I'm waiting on the background check now and I'll be contacting my recruiter to go over the paperwork and schedule my ASVAB in the next few days.

        Thanks again, and here's to taking a deep breath and going in head first.