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Stigma or precaution? DoD memo lists Covid-19 as ‘permanently disqualifying’ for survivors seeking to join army

Stigma or precaution? DoD memo lists Covid-19 as ‘permanently disqualifying’ for survivors seeking to join army
New guidelines for US military recruiters severely limit the chances for survivors of the coronavirus to join the ranks of the armed forces, banning them from service outright unless they obtain a special waiver.

A memo penned by the US Military Entrance Processing Command (MEPCOM) laying out guidelines for staffers who screen applicants for military service has been circulated online. The authenticity of the document – which effectively makes the coronavirus a black mark, excluding survivors from the pool of potential recruits – was confirmed by Pentagon spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell on Wednesday, as cited by the Military Times.

All recruits at Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) will be required to go through a thorough screening process aimed at determining whether they have ever contracted Covid-19, even if they have never tested positive for the disease.

The typical screening procedure would entail MEPS staff taking recruits’ temperatures and asking questions about whether they have ever displayed symptoms consistent with the deadly virus or could have been exposed to the disease. If recruits who had not been formally diagnosed with Covid-19 fail the screening, they will be permitted another attempt at the station after 14 days, provided they remain symptom-free.

However, if an aspiring member of the military has a known history of the virus, confirmed either through a lab test or by a doctor, he will be “authorized to process 28 days after the documented date of diagnosis.” After that period, there is a very slim chance he would be accepted, however, as a history with the illness will be deemed “permanently disqualifying” for service, according to the memo.

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The only loophole left for applicants is to obtain a waiver that can be granted for all medical conditions – but they are not easy to get. The likelihood of that happening is even more miniscule given that there is currently no policy regulating when such exemptions can be granted in the context of Covid-19.

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The Pentagon has yet to explain why it is treating the coronavirus as a major red flag, in contrast to other viral illnesses. There has been speculation that coronavirus patients can suffer long-lasting lung damage, even after making a full recovery. But due to the disease erupting on the scene somewhat recently, research on the issue remains thin, leaving it an open question whether survivors will ever return to full health.

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