On Monday, a memo from the United States Military Entrance Processing Command (USMEPCOM) was released on social media.
One user, Nathaniel Free, sent out the following tweet with the memo attached:
“During the screening process, a reported history of confirmed COVID-19 will be annotated ‘Considered disqualifying’“ pic.twitter.com/ZKx91AUbXo
— Free (@Nathaniel_Free) May 4, 2020
The memo, which was allegedly written to “provide interim guidance on rendering a medical qualification determination for an applicant with a history of confirmed COVID-19,” reads in part:
During the prescreen process, a reported history of confirmed COVID-19 will be annotated as “Considered Disqualifying” (CD) and documented in section VII of the DD form 2807-2…
During the medical history interview or examination, a history of COVID-19, confirmed by either a laboratory test or clinician diagnosis, is permanently disqualifying…
According to Military Times, which first wrote about the issue, the memo’s authenticity was confirmed by Pentagon spokesperson Jessica Maxwell.
In a follow-up piece, Military Times added that the policy had been updated, “loosening restrictions banning anyone who has been diagnosed to only those who were hospitalized because of complications.”
However, further details were not provided regarding more specific rules about hospitalization.
The piece speculated that because COVID-19 is a new and little-understood illness, MEPCOM is simply being circumspect, noting that there have been “preliminary studies” showing “significant lung damage in COVID-19 patients, which could affect fitness for combat in a service member,” and that the duration of potential immunity following infection is unknown.
According to CNN, which reportedly spoke with a defense official:
The guidance is being put in place because there is little understanding of the “long-term” effects of the virus and there is a concern that potential recruits who have been hospitalized may need further medical assessments.
Speaking with NPR on Thursday, Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated that the memo “has not been approved,” and that it “got out there by accident.”
“It hasn’t been rigorously thought out and reviewed by the service secretaries – the chiefs – or the secretary of defense,” Milley said, reports NPR.
According to Milley, the standards as they pertain to COVID-19 infections will have to be exhaustively examined with medical professionals.
Milley also stated that the final version of the guidance will possibly arrive in the coming weeks, and that it wouldn’t necessarily make sense to issue blanket disqualifications to those whose COVID-19 cases were so severe as to require hospitalization.
“We’re going to have to implement a whole series of protocols,” the General said.
The original memo’s five-part instructions can be read in their entirety here:
Instructions: All 65 MEPS and one RPS will implement the following:
1. An applicant with a positive MEPS screening for COVID-19, but without confirmation by either a laboratory test or clinician diagnosis, will be allowed to return to the MEPS to continue processing after the 14-day RJ date has been met IAW the current version of reference (a). Upon return to the MEPS, the applicant will be processed IAW references (a) and (b) unless otherwise stated in this information message.
2. An applicant with a history of COVID-19, confirmed by either a laboratory test or clinician diagnosis, will be authorized to process 28 days after the documented date of diagnosis. The applicant will submit either as a prescreen or as a med read, all supporting medical documentation pertaining to the COVID-19 diagnosis. The supporting medical documentation should include all clinical notes pertaining to diagnostic testing, treatment and prognosis.
3. During the prescreen process, a reported history of confirmed COVID-19 will be annotated as “Considered Disqualifying” (CD) and documented in Section VII of the DD form 2807-2. The DoDI 6130.03 section 5.30.a. will be cited with the AP approved ICD-10 code Z22.9. “Processing Not Justified” (PNJ) will not be used as a prescreen determination for an applicant with a history of confirmed COVID-19.
4. During the medical history interview or examination, a history of COVID-19, confirmed by either a laboratory test or clinician diagnosis, is permanently disqualifying, and the “P” PULHES letter designator will be annotated as “3P” in item 76 on the DD form 2808. The DoDI 6130.03 section 5.30.a. will be cited in item 79 with the AP approved ICD-10 code Z22.9 in items 77 and 79. Item 52 “Other” from the DD Form 2808 will be used as the associated item number for annotation.
5. All other applicant screening or processing not detailed in this information message will be conducted IAW the current versions of references (a) and (b).
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