Thursday, October 11, 2012

ADHD and a Military Career

Can my son or daughter with ADHD serve in the US military? Many ADHD support groups receive this question from concerned parents or teens who want to know if their ADHD symptoms or treatments disqualify them from a military career. Often, they find that there is no easy answer to this question, especially when different military recruiters tend to provide them with incomplete or inaccurate answers.
A simplistic answer to this question would be maybe, and changes look good if your symptoms are under control and you do not take medications for ADHD. Enlisting to serve in the US military is a multi-step process with different criteria for eligibility, and it's possible for someone with ADHD to meet them despite their symptoms. Generally, the criteria fall into two categories: aptitude and skills required for military service, and physical standards, both of which are evaluated at all Military Entrance and Processing Stations.
In order to make it to the next round, every candidate has to take and pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, a timed test that measures aptitude in word knowledge, mathematics knowledge, mathematics reasoning, general science, mechanical comprehension, auto information, and electronics information. There are no special accommodations allowed for this test.
Physical standards
Aside from testing for aptitude and skills, candidates also have to pass the Physical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment, or Inductions. This would involve taking a complete psychiatric/medical history as well as a comprehensive physical exam. Candidates with ADHD should take note of the Directive 6130.3 from the Department of Defense, which states the following criteria for rejection:
a) Personality, behavioral, or conduct disorders. If the psychological testing and interview reveals that ADHD symptoms and other conduct problems will interfere with the candidate's performance in the military, he or she will be disqualified.
b) Academic skills defects. If the candidate has a long history of academic problems or perceptual defects that interfere with schoolwork after 12 years, or if the candidate takes medication to maintain or improve academic skills, he or she will be disqualified.
The good news is that the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard can grant waivers to certain individuals who do not pass the basic criteria listed above. The reasons for the waiver depend on the circumstances and vary from one case to another. However, it seems that academic aptitude without the use of ADHD medication increases your chances of getting a waiver. Generally speaking, the military disqualifies any candidate who needs to take daily medication to maintain their health or to keep chronic disorders at bay. For examples, candidates with asthma, chronic bronchitis, or coronary heart disease are just some of the many medical conditions that can disqualify an individual from a military career. So try not to feel "singled out" if your use of ADHD medications keeps you from joining the military.
Give it a shot
If you have your heart set on a military career despite your ADHD, try not to be swayed by the possibility of disqualification. The military still encourages individuals with ADHD to give it a shot together with other career options. Talk to a good recruiter and send in your application, and be completely honest about your medical history and educational background. Being disqualified from the military now is much better than getting honorably discharged for giving false information.

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