What Happens If You Develop Diabetes in the Military?

If you develop diabetes while serving in the military, proper medical care and support will be provided to manage your condition effectively.

Serving in the United States Armed Forces is a noble pursuit. But, if you have diabetes, there are special hurdles. All diabetes types are not allowed under U.S. military rules.1 This is because managing diabetes needs constant care to keep blood sugar in check. This can clash with the army’s high physical and health demands.

If you have diabetes and want to join the army, this news is tough. A military health waiver for diabetes is almost never given.1 Yet, the story changes if diabetes starts after you’re already in the military.

The DoD says that all diabetes types stop you from enlisting.1 Getting out of this rule is hard. Yet, it might happen if you develop diabetes while already serving.

The U.S. military set up special rules because of its nature. This means it’s not bound to follow laws like the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.12 The reasons are the demanding physical roles and the military’s exclusive right to its own standards.2 So, anyone with diabetes might find it hard to keep serving.

Key Takeaways

  • The U.S. military considers all types of diabetes to be disqualifying health conditions for joining the armed forces.
  • The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits employment discrimination against individuals with disabilities, does not apply to the military.
  • Individuals living with diabetes may be able to apply for a military medical waiver, but these are rarely approved.
  • If a service member develops diabetes while in the military, they undergo a Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) to determine if they can continue to meet medical standards.
  • Certain civilian careers, such as law enforcement, firefighting, and some aviation roles, may be more accessible for individuals with diabetes due to less stringent medical requirements compared to the military.

Military Eligibility and Entrance Requirements

To join the U.S. military, candidates must meet specific criteria. Requirements differ slightly across military branches. Applicants go through the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). Here, they need to provide their medical records and undergo an exam.1

Physical and Medical Examinations

The Department of Defense (DoD) has a list of health issues that can disqualify you. All forms of diabetes are on this list. It includes diabetes mellitus history, unresolved prediabetes in the last 2 years, gestational diabetes history, and glycosuria linked to glucose or kidney issues.1

Disqualifying Health Conditions

Candidates with diabetes might seek a waiver to join, but it’s usually denied.1 The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which stops job discrimination against those with disabilities, doesn’t cover military roles. This is due to the military’s ability to set its own physical standards.12

Discrimination and the Rehabilitation Act

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects those with disabilities from job discrimination.2 But, this doesn’t cover military jobs.2 Military jobs are not under this act because of their strict physical demands.2

Civilian DoD Employees’ Rights

Civilian workers under the Department of Defense (DoD) do have rights under this act.2 The DoD protects them using the EEO Program. This program ensures fair treatment for all job applicants and current employees world-wide.2 It stops practices that unfairly keep people with diabetes from certain jobs.2

EEOC Guidance on Diabetes in Employment

Instead of blocking people, the DoD must check if they can do a job with some help.2 The EEOC says disabled people, including those with diabetes, may need special help to work.2

The DoD must follow EEOC rules for disabled workers.2 Its policy is to tear down any wall preventing disabled people from working.2 There can’t be any discrimination in hiring, placing workers, or how jobs are organized.2

Federal workers under the DoD or its funded programs are safe from discrimination.2 But this doesn’t cover jobs in the military, which have very strict physical requirements.2 This could mean people with conditions like diabetes miss out.2

Medical Evaluation and Retention Standards

If someone in the military finds out they have diabetes, they must go through a Medical Evaluation Board2. This board checks if they still meet the health requirements to serve in active duty.3

The MEB process looks at different aspects. It may involve their commanding officer and an endocrinologist. This is to decide if they can keep serving with diabetes.3

Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) Process

The MEB also decides if the soldier can go to all places or certain areas.3 It has been shown that even people with type 1 diabetes can be deployed if their health is in good shape. They need to have well-controlled diabetes, like an A1C less than 7%.3

Deployment Criteria for Soldiers with Diabetes

To see if a soldier with diabetes can go out on duty, the Army looks at many things. They check A1c levels, any nerve damage, how well the person manages their diabetes, any past serious events, and how likely they are to get very low blood sugar.3 Plus, using devices that monitor glucose all the time and talking often with doctors helps keep these soldiers safe. The desired blood sugar level is between 100 and 180 mg/dl.3

medical evaluation and retention standards

what happens if you develop diabetes in the military

Having diabetes poses a challenge for those wanting to join the military, as it’s considered a disqualifying health condition.1 The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) says that certain types of diabetes, prediabetes from the last two years, and other glucose issues could stop you from enlisting.1 Although possible, getting a waiver for diabetes is tough.1

If you’re already in the military and then develop diabetes, things could be different.1 A Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) will check if you still meet the required health standards.1 This is because, unlike non-military jobs at the DoD, the military has unique physical job demands.1

See also  How to Manage Diabetes? A Guide for Living Well

For jobs in the DoD not related to the military, the Rehabilitation Act can help. It ensures equal chances for those with disabilities, including diabetes.1 The DoD’s Equal Opportunity (EEO) program for civilians ensures fair treatment. This includes equal pay and opportunities for professional growth.1

Managing Diabetes in Active Duty

The U.S. military focuses on a detailed plan for troops with newly found type 1 diabetes.3 Soldiers at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, learn a lot about diabetes. They also improve their physical abilities while using the latest diabetes tech. A special system keeps an eye on their health from afar.

Intensive Diabetes Education

Soldiers get a lot of education when they are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. This makes sure they know how to take care of themselves.3 They learn about insulin shots, counting carbs, and how to avoid blood sugar highs and lows.

Optimization of Diabetes Technology

The military is big on using new tech to help soldiers with diabetes.3 The Dexcom G5 is a system that shows glucose levels in real time. This helps soldiers and doctors keep blood sugar levels in check during tough tasks or when they’re away from home.

Remote Real-Time Monitoring

There’s also a high-tech way to watch over soldiers with diabetes.3 Doctors can check glucose levels and other health signs from far away. This means they can offer help quickly if needed.

This whole system lets the military help soldiers with diabetes keep serving.3 It puts their health first but still makes sure they can do their jobs well.

Physical Training and Activity Management

The third source shares how Fort Bragg gets soldiers with type 1 diabetes ready for the military. They focus on endurance training and keeping glucose levels steady during hard work.

Endurance Training and Preparation

Diabetic soldiers get into shape with intense endurance training. They prepare thoroughly to join all military tasks and hit the needed fitness levels. Each soldier gets a unique plan. It looks at the time, weather, ground, and what they carry. This plan helps them do their best and handle their diabetes well while working hard.

Continuous Glucose Monitoring

At Fort Bragg, keeping a close eye on glucose is key. With real-time glucose checks, soldiers can adjust their insulin and food right away. This keeps their diabetes under control during tough training and other activities. The medical team always watches over the soldiers’ glucose levels, ready to help.

Activity Data Collection and Analysis

The Fort Bragg team also gathers detailed activity data. They note the time, climate, ground, and gear used. This data helps make unique plans for every soldier. It ensures they can safely join all trainings and meet fitness goals.

This wide-ranging effort aims to support soldiers with type 1 diabetes. It helps them meet their military’s physical needs. At the same time, they work to keep their glucose levels in check and prevent issues.

Deployment Considerations

The military has strict rules for sending soldiers with diabetes into the field. They look at various factors. These include the soldier’s HbA1c level and if they have signs of nerve or eye issues. They also check for a history of very low blood sugar or dangerously high blood sugar. A key point is the soldier’s ability to take care of themselves. And they must ensure the deployment spot has good medical help for managing diabetes. Safety for the soldier and their unit is top priority before they’re sent out.

When deciding to deploy a soldier with diabetes, the military takes a careful approach. They review how well the soldier controls their diabetes and their medical past. They also consider if the deployment place has what’s needed to keep the soldier and their team safe from health issues.

For these soldiers to go out, they must be good at handling their diabetes away from home. This means keeping an eye on their blood sugar and using insulin when necessary. The military wants to make sure they can keep their blood sugar in check. Plus, they provide the necessary medical support. This helps soldiers with diabetes stay in active duty and join deployments.

Career Options and Alternatives

Right now, the U.S. military doesn’t allow those with diabetes to join. But, people with diabetes can still find many jobs. These jobs follow the rules of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It stops employers from refusing to hire someone just because they have a disability.

This covers jobs in the Department of Defense and outside it. Jobs like firefighting, aviation, and driving trucks are open. As long as someone can do the job, they might get hired. They just need to prove they can manage their diabetes well.12

Law Enforcement and Firefighting

Jobs in law enforcement and firefighting are good for those with diabetes. The Act lets them apply. They need to show they can do the job and keep their diabetes in check.1

Aviation Roles

Some aviation jobs, like being a flight instructor, are open too. The military has stricter rules. But outside, the Act lets qualified people with diabetes apply.1

Commercial Driving

Commercial driving, such as being a truck or bus driver, is another path. The same Act protects these jobs. Employers have to see if someone can do the job safely.1

People with diabetes must show they take good care of themselves. This is through medical checks and keeping an eye on their health. The Act makes sure they aren’t turned away just because they have diabetes.1

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Military Medical Discharge

Diabetes is seen as a condition that stops people from joining the military. But, if someone in the military gets diabetes, they might still serve.3 Those with type 1 diabetes used to be told they couldn’t stay in the military. Now, some can if they show they are fit and can manage their diabetes with advanced diabetes management technologies.3 The target is for them to meet all deployment requirements within 6 months since their diagnosis.3

The military might not have to follow the Rehabilitation Act, which bans disability discrimination. If you have diabetes, the medical rules might not be fair and could mean you can’t be in the military.3 To keep serving, those with type 1 diabetes must still pass fitness tests and do their unit’s tasks to make sure they are safe to serve and maybe deploy.3 Things like HbA1c levels, diabetes complications, and how well they know to manage the illness are checked.3

About a third of those who stay in the military after being diagnosed with diabetes have hemoglobin A1c above 7%.4 About 5.7% even deploy with an HbA1c of 9.0% or higher. This shows that soldiers can keep serving with diabetes as long as they are carefully watched and managed.4

Support Resources for Military Personnel

Though not detailed, it’s likely that soldiers with diabetes get help from their medical team. They can also turn to their leaders and unit. These people support them to manage their condition and stay fit for duty.5 There are teams and resources set up to guide soldiers with diabetes through their service.5

For diabetes military personnel, managing blood sugar is crucial during deployment. They must be able to take care of their health without slowing down the mission.6 A solid plan is made between the soldier and medical staff. It includes how to handle not eating on time or tough weather, keeping diabetes in check.6

Eating the right foods and keeping blood sugar steady is key for these soldiers. The medical team helps them craft a diet that fits their work. This is crucial for staying strong in the military and keeping their health in check.6

Having diabetes can stop someone from joining the military. But, if you’re already serving and get diabetes, there’s hope to stay. Soldiers have support to show they can handle their health and still do their job.52

Diabetes Management During Combat Deployments

The military is working hard to help soldiers with diabetes. It’s vital to manage their condition during combat missions. These soldiers need to watch their blood sugar closely and give insulin when required. But, they must do this without impacting their work or risking the team.7

Blood Sugar Monitoring in the Field

Systems like the Dexcom G5® are changing the game for diabetic soldiers during missions.3 They give instant updates on blood sugar, so the soldier and the team can keep an eye on it. This quick exchange of data is key to keeping blood sugar levels in check and avoiding dangers out there.3

Insulin Therapy in Combat Zones

Injecting insulin in tough conditions needs a solid plan. The medical team and soldiers work together to figure out the best insulin use. They plan for times when meals are skipped and resources are scarce.7 Making sure a soldier can inject insulin while still serving is crucial.3

Dietary Restrictions and Nutritional Needs

Soldiers with diabetes in the U.S. military must focus on proper energy and controlling their blood sugar. They follow advice like athletes with type 1 diabetes about eating right, staying hydrated, and avoiding low or high blood sugar. Both can be harmful, leading to severe issues.

The medical team creates a specific diet for each soldier. This is crucial during tough physical work and combat. The aim is to boost military performance while keeping diabetes under control. It’s a challenge that demands teamwork between the soldier, medical staff, and leaders.

Dietary Considerations for Diabetic SoldiersImportance
Proper NutritionEnsures adequate energy, macronutrients, and micronutrients to fuel physical demands and maintain glycemic control.
HydrationHelps prevent dehydration, which can exacerbate blood sugar fluctuations and increase the risk of diabetic complications.
Hypoglycemia PreventionCrucial to avoid potentially life-threatening drops in blood sugar levels during strenuous activities or limited food access.
Hyperglycemia PreventionMaintains optimal glucose levels to prevent the development of diabetic ketoacidosis, a serious complication.

The team and soldiers collaborate to meet these dietary goals. They make sure those with diabetes can fully take part in the military. This includes training and active combat.

Impact on Military Fitness Standards

Soldiers with diabetes face tough challenges. They must keep up with fitness rules just like others.3 Passing the Army fitness test is a must. They must also do everything their unit needs. Doctors and these troops work closely. They use special training and tools to stay safe and perform well.3

It’s the leader’s call if a diabetic soldier is used in missions. They check if the soldier is fit and healthy enough.3 The army uses set rules. These rules look at the soldier’s health, their care skills, and if there’s enough help where they’re sent.3

In the past, the army would not take soldiers with diabetes.3 But now, with new tech and better care, some with type 1 diabetes can serve.3 Places like Fort Bragg have shown it’s possible. These troops can pass tests and do their jobs well.3

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Policies and Regulations for Diabetic Soldiers

The military sets rules for diabetics who want to serve. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act work together to stop discrimination. Yet, the Sixth Circuit decides some National Guard roles are fully military. This means they might not follow these Acts.2

The Defense Department aims to remove obstacles for those with disabilities. It also bars any DoD help from mistreating disabled people. But, DoD workers have different rules than those in combat roles. They might not get the same support for their health issues.2

Being diabetic can stop you from joining the U.S. Armed Forces. The Rehabilitation Act doesn’t stop this for military jobs. The DoD has particular diabetes rules for those wanting to enlist. Getting a waiver for diabetes is hard.1

If a soldier gets diabetes in service, they might stay if they can handle it. They have to show they’re fit for duty still. This involves a medical board review to decide.1

Military jobs might not have to follow all disability rules, except civilian ones. The DoD tries to treat its non-combat employees fairly. They use laws like the EEOC to make it happen.1


Currently, the U.S. military sees diabetes as a health issue that stops people from joining. Yet, if someone in the military gets diabetes, they can seek a chance to keep serving.6 They must prove they can handle their diabetes well. This includes staying meeting physical demands and availability for deployment.3

Thanks to learning all about diabetes, using the best tools, and closely working with doctors, some soldiers with diabetes can keep serving.3 However, it’s key to remember that the military can continue to make its own rules, despite laws against disability discrimination. They have the final say on who can serve.6

As the U.S. military works to support soldiers with diabetes, safety and preparedness for duty stand as top priorities. At the same time, they aim to keep skilled people who got diabetes while serving.3


What happens if you develop diabetes in the military?

If someone in the military is diagnosed with diabetes, they need to go through a Medical Evaluation Board (MEB). The MEB checks if they can still serve. It looks at things like their health, their job, and advice from doctors. This process helps decide if they can stay in the military.

What are the military’s policies regarding diabetes?

The military says you can’t join if you have diabetes. But, if you get diabetes while in service, you might not have to leave. You go through the MEB to see if you can still do your job safely and meet health standards.

How does the Rehabilitation Act apply to the military and diabetes?

The Rehabilitation Act helps protect workers with disabilities. But, the military doesn’t fall under this law. This is because the law allows the military to have strict physical standards for its members.

How does the Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) process work for soldiers with diabetes?

The MEB is used to see if a soldier with diabetes can keep serving. It looks at how well they manage their health. Doctors consider if their diabetes affects their work in the military.

What factors are considered for deploying soldiers with diabetes?

To be deployed, soldiers with diabetes need to meet certain health criteria. This includes their blood sugar levels and whether they have certain health issues. They also look at how well the soldier can manage their diabetes, and if the deployment area has the medical care they need.

What support resources are available for military personnel with diabetes?

Soldiers with diabetes get help from medical teams and commanders. Support includes access to diabetes specialists. The military also makes plans to manage diabetes during deployments. This includes how to handle things like not having regular meals or enough medical supplies.

How does the military manage diabetes during combat deployments?

For those with diabetes going into combat, keeping blood sugar levels in check is vital. They must also be able to give themselves insulin as needed. The medical team creates a detailed plan for each soldier, preparing them for the field. They focus on managing diabetes in tough conditions without affecting combat readiness.

What dietary and nutritional considerations are there for soldiers with diabetes?

Soldiers with diabetes need to watch what they eat and drink. They follow a diet designed for athletes with diabetes. This includes paying close attention to what they eat, drinking enough water, and avoiding certain health issues. Their medical team helps them create a plan that fits their health needs, especially during intense activities and missions.

How does having diabetes impact a soldier’s fitness standards and performance?

Soldiers with diabetes are held to the same fitness levels as others. The medical team helps these soldiers train and monitor their health. They use methods like monitoring glucose levels to ensure good health. This helps them perform well and stay safe while on duty.

What are the military’s policies and regulations regarding soldiers with diabetes?

Diabetes prevents you from joining the military. If you develop diabetes while serving, you can possibly stay. The key is showing that you can take care of yourself and meet all the job’s demands. A thorough evaluation is done to decide if you can continue serving.

Source Links

  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/can-you-join-the-military-with-diabetes
  2. https://diabetes.org/sites/default/files/2023-10/Diabetes Discrimination and the Department of Defense.pdf
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6134313/
  4. https://www.usmedicine.com/2020-compendium-of-federal-medicine/servicemembers-with-uncontrolled-diabetes-allowed-to-remain-in-military
  5. https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/conditions/diabetes.asp
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2909060/
  7. https://academic.oup.com/milmed/article/183/11-12/e603/4959959