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  • Writer's pictureLTC Brechin, USAF, Ret.

DoDMERB Basics for the U.S. Service Academies

Updated: Feb 22

Understanding the medical evaluation 'process' is important for candidates . . .

DoDMERB medical evaluation process

Any candidate for one of the five U.S. service academies -- the Air Force Academy, the Military Academy, the Naval Academy, the Merchant Marine Academy and the Coast Guard Academy -- or for a ROTC scholarship, will encounter the Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board (DoDMERB). The group is responsible for determining that all candidates meet or surpass military medical accession standards.

When you make significant progress through the service academy (SA) application itself, you will be asked to create an account on the DoDMETS website, i.e., the Department of Defense Medical Exam Testing System. This group 'works for' DoDMERB and manages all the medical exam tracking system operated by CIV Team (an Employee Screening and Health Services company headquartered in Philadelphia, PA) to assist DoD applicants, like you, in scheduling and completing their medical requirements for the service academies and ROTC.

Let's review the steps that you will take to medically qualify for the service academies (SAs) and ROTC.

Your first step in the process will be to create a DoDMETS account when you are directed. This request may arrive as early as July/August or as late as January/February of the 'cycle' year (e.g., enter June 2024 and receiving notice in October 2023 or January 2024). Later, as you desire, you may also create a separate account on the DoDMERB website. These are two separate sites with two separate sign-ins registered with each website, respectively.

Each website, especially the DoDMERB site, has an extensive set of information and FAQs that you should read prior to starting the medical paperwork and scheduling the medical and eye exams.

The next step for a candidate will be to complete the medical questionnaire, which you will eventually printout with your responses. You must carry a paper copy of it with you to the medical exam. Typically, after you finish the paperwork, you will schedule two examinations: a medical exam and an eye exam. No paperwork is required for your eye exam. Each exam takes place at a designated clinic in your area. By the way, if you are not 18 years old, then you will need a parent to accompany you to the two exams to sign a medical release. CAUTION: Exams will not be considered 'complete' if this release with a parent's signature is not present and will hold up the entire process.

The medical questionnaire that you will complete is extensive. I recommend working through it slowly and deliberately. You should consult with your parents on the details of the questionnaire. Read the questions clearly and do not go 'beyond the intent' of the request. Rely on doctor-defined, concrete diagnoses. Be careful with your Uncle John's pronouncements that, "you have asthma like I did at your age." If it is not diagnosed by a doctor, then you should not answer in the affirmative. Your parents are likely the best guides for you.

The eye and medical exams are simple -- no blood, no urine -- just a review. You will read a passage for a 'stutter test,' complete a hearing test, and the attendant will review the completed questionnaire with you. Most medical exams are completed within 15 minutes. Your separate eye exam will be straightforward, too. If you wear glasses, then bring them with you. Eye contacts must be removed prior to your eye exam. Be sure to read all of the details to be in compliance with the directives outlined by DoDMETS. For example, if you wear orthokeratology (or ortho-k) lenses, then they must be removed 90 days prior to your eye exam.

A warning: many of the clinics used by DoDMERB rarely 'see' candidates for the US service academies and ROTC. That means they may be unfamiliar with the reason for the exam, the importance to you, and the overall submission process. I recommend checking-in with the supervisor or other clinic personnel to confirm these details prior to leaving the facility with a contact's information in case you need to follow-up later.

Your medical and eye exams are evaluated as a set, so do not expect one or the other to be processed until both are completed. The clinics that you use will have 30 days to forward the results of the examinations. Creating a DoDMERB account will allow you to view your current status. In turn, each SA portal will eventually display your results.

Next, monitor your progress! Your DoDMERB portal should show when the exams are received along with the status of processing the results, including meeting standards, not meeting standards and undergoing a medical waiver.

Finally, be patient with the process. It is deliberate and slow, so let the bureaucracy make its way through to a decision point. Your case manager at DoDMERB is a good resource for questions.

Final DoDMERB medical status is either MEETS (MMS) or does NOT MEET medical military standards (DNMMS). Often, the two alternatives are referred to as either Medically Qualified and Medically Disqualified. Candidates that are determined to not meet medical standards may be considered for a medical waiver by the specific Academy or ROTC program. Often, the waiver is requested if a candidate is considered "competitive" to win an appointment or an ROTC scholarship. You will be notified of the waiver decision via the DoDMERB website.

Approximately 20% of candidates will need waivers. I tend to see the same percentage with my students each year as well. Often, students have an idea of their potential medical issue(s) as they start the application process. I advise collecting all of the details around each issue before the information is requested, including current status letters from your doctors, procedures completed, etc. I also recommend consulting with the appropriate sections of the DoD Instruction 6130.03, Volume 1: Medical Standards for Military Service: Appointment, Enlistment, or Induction as this document outlines the medical standards that will apply to your particular medical condition.

Note that the medical reference, 6130.03 Vol.1, is 'black and white' -- at least, it tries to be -- with as much clarity as possible. If you do not meet the medical standards, then you will be declared DNMMS (or DQ'd). However, the waiver is 'gray' and allows the military to respond to the needs of the military by pursuing a medical waiver for competitive candidates. Note that the waiver authority lies with the individual service, i.e., the Navy, the Army, the Air Force, etc. You may want to consult my other blog for more details if you are seeking a medical waiver.

Candidates will often be required to collect and submit additional medical information (AMI). It is also referred to as a "remedial" or remedial information. I recommend using your own doctors to gather the supporting documentation (i.e., AMI) that you may require. As I noted previously, a candidate can often anticipate this requirement and collect most, or all, of the details well before the remedial information is requested.

With your attention to details (and some perseverance), you will work your way through the DoDMERB process. The reward will be finding that you are "Qualified" or MMS for the appointment or ROTC scholarship that you seek!

[I would welcome a chance to discuss details with you. I offer coaching services to pace and prepare you (and your parents!) for the entire Academy application process . . . along with assistimg you with the DoDMERB medical evaluaton process! Contact me at chris@cbbrechin.com, 503.515.7406 or complete my contact form on the home page.]

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