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Will My Military Application Disclose My Rehab History?

& Medically Reviewed by Jenni Jacobsen, LSW

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Last Updated - 03/03/2024

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Updated 03/03/2024

Opting for transparency about your rehab history during military application is paramount.

If you’re contemplating military service and have a history of substance abuse, the fear of your past being discovered might be a concern. Many individuals with addiction histories hesitate to seek treatment out of concern that it could jeopardize their military aspirations. It’s a common challenge that leads to a crucial question: “Will my military application reveal my rehab stint?”

Can the Military Unearth Your Rehab Records?

When you embark on the journey to enlist in the military, you’re required to furnish a comprehensive medical history to your recruiter. This entails authorizing the release of your medical records to the Department of Defense upon your decision to join the military. The most prudent choice is to be forthright with the military about your history of substance use treatment, as they mandate full disclosure of your medical background.

It’s crucial to bear in mind that a history of drug or alcohol addiction could potentially lead to disqualification from military service. Your recruiting officer will meticulously evaluate your medical history, and in certain cases, you might qualify for a medical waiver if your history of addiction poses a disqualifying condition.

Does Rehab Leave a Mark on Your Record?

Participating in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program doesn’t leave any trace on your criminal record. Medical records are typically held under strict confidentiality unless you authorize their release to a third party. While your rehab history won’t appear on a criminal record or background check, a record of drug-related offenses may be accessible. If you’ve faced drug-related charges, the military can access this information during your enlistment application.

How Does Rehab Impact Your Military Prospects?

Although the thought of disclosing your history of substance abuse treatment to the military may be daunting, honesty remains the best policy. Demonstrating to your recruiter that substance use is no longer a concern can bolster your chances of being accepted into the military. Completing a rehabilitation program serves as evidence of your commitment to personal growth. Moreover, the resilience required to conquer addiction will likely be respected within the military’s culture.

Substance Use Among Active-Duty Military Personnel

Although current drug use, including testing positive for illegal substances, is grounds for medical disqualification from military enlistment, the unfortunate reality is that active-duty military personnel aren’t immune to addiction. The stressors inherent in military life can drive individuals toward drug and alcohol misuse as coping mechanisms.

Alcohol Misuse in the Military

Research involving active-duty military personnel reveals concerning statistics, with nearly one-third of this demographic engaging in binge drinking. Over one-third exhibit signs of unhealthy drinking or probable alcohol use disorder. Combat exposure can lead to trauma, prompting military members to resort to alcohol as a coping mechanism. Binge drinking rates among military personnel slightly surpass those in the general population.

Recognizing the high prevalence of unhealthy drinking within the military, Tricare, the healthcare system for active-duty personnel, expanded its treatment offerings in 2016 to encompass intensive outpatient care. Tricare’s website also features a tool for drug and alcohol assessments.

Illicit Drug Use in the Military

Surveys conducted among active-duty military personnel indicate that illicit drug use is rare, with less than 1% of military members reporting such involvement. However, prescription drug misuse is more prevalent within this demographic, with around 4% of active-duty personnel admitting to misusing one or more prescription medications.

Pain relievers are the most commonly misused prescription medications within military populations. A significant proportion of opioid addictions in this group stem from the misuse of pain medications, which are often prescribed to treat injuries sustained during deployment. Recognizing the dangers associated with opioid misuse, the Department of Defense has launched prevention campaigns.

The military also mandates a 26-panel drug testing regimen for active-duty personnel, which has recently been extended to encompass all military applicants. Individuals who fail two drug tests face permanent disqualification from military service.

Consequences of Military Rejection Due to Substance Abuse

A positive drug test during the recruitment process can lead to rejection from the military. In some cases, you may be eligible to reapply after a 90-day waiting period, but a second positive test results in permanent disqualification. If you experience rejection after a second failed drug test, you won’t have the opportunity for reapplication.

This underscores the importance of seeking treatment. Completing treatment before pursuing a military career can mitigate the risk of relapse and the possibility of failing another drug test that would disqualify you from military service. If you believe that the military has unjustly rejected you due to a history of substance use and treatment, you have the option to appeal the decision made by your recruiter. This entails submitting a written appeal to the appropriate branch of the service.

Treatment Options for Military Personnel Seeking Recovery

A myriad of treatment options is available to military personnel seeking assistance for addiction. Tricare insurance provides coverage for various services related to substance use disorders, encompassing medication-assisted treatment, inpatient and residential services, medical detox, intensive outpatient care, and partial hospitalization programs.

At The Recovery Village Ridgefield, we’ve developed our programs to meet the unique requirements of veterans and service members. Our comprehensive range of rehabilitation services spans medical detoxification, inpatient care, and partial hospitalization services. Additionally, we provide co-occurring disorders treatment to cater to the needs of military individuals grappling with both addiction and co-occurring disorders, such as PTSD. Our services are firmly grounded in trauma-informed care, ensuring that veterans receive top-tier addiction treatment.

View Sources

Department of Defense. “Medical Standards for Military Service: Appointment, Enlistment, or Induction.” May 6, 2018. Accessed November 10, 2023. 

Code of Federal Regulations. “Title 32- National Defense.” May 27, 2015. Accessed November 10, 2023. 

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “General Risk of Substance Use Disorders.” October 2019. Accessed November 10, 2023. 

Ferdinando, Lisa. “DoD Implements Expanded Drug Testing for Military Applicants.” U.S. Department of Defense, March 9, 2017. Accessed November 10, 2023. 

U.S. Department of Defense. “Appealing a Military Recruiting Decision.” August 23, 2021. Accessed November 10, 2023. 

Tricare. “Substance Use Disorder Treatment.” October 3, 2018. Accessed November 10, 2023.