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Ask a Social Worker: Can Someone with a Bleeding Disorder Join the Military?

Learn the steps you need to take if you’re interested in serving your country.

“Ask a Social Worker” is a regular column featuring questions from the community and answers from members of NBDF’s Social Work Working Group. If you have questions for our social workers, send them to [email protected].

Dear Kathaleen,

I have a bleeding disorder and have always dreamed of serving my country. I’m wondering if it’s possible for someone like me to enlist in the military despite my condition. If I am able to enlist, I want to do everything I can to avoid bleeds and stay healthy. Can you help?


A Curious Kid

Dear Curious Kid,

Joining the military can be a big decision, especially for people with bleeding disorders. Military service is highly respected, but it can also bring unique challenges for people with such conditions. Before making any decisions, it’s essential to plan ahead, communicate openly with your hematologist, and understand the implications of military service for your health.

The first step for anyone with a bleeding disorder who is considering joining the military is to talk to their hematologist. This valuable ally can provide insight into whether military service is compatible with your medical condition. Together, you can assess the severity of your disorder, the potential risks during training and deployment, and any available treatment options.

It’s crucial to be honest when discussing your medical history with your doctor and military recruiter. Concealing or downplaying a bleeding disorder can have serious consequences for your health, for the safety of your fellow service members, and even legally. Disclosing your diagnosis allows medical professionals to make informed decisions about your fitness for duty.

To join the military, you must meet strict medical criteria outlined by the Department of Defense. You must not have any medical conditions or physical defects that could require excessive time off for treatment or result in separation from service due to medical unfitness. You must also demonstrate your ability to satisfactorily complete required training and serve without geographical limitations and without worsening any existing medical conditions.

In case you don’t meet the physical and medical requirements outlined by the DOD, there is a provision for medical waivers. Each branch of the military can initiate and request such waivers based on a thorough assessment of a person’s medical history and the specific needs of the service. These waivers could provide an opportunity for people with certain medical conditions, including bleeding disorders, to be considered for military service on a case-by-case basis.

If military regulations limit certain roles or assignments for people with bleeding disorders, there could still be opportunities for meaningful service. There are various career opportunities available in the military that do not involve direct combat, such as administrative positions and technical specialties.

When considering military service with a bleeding disorder, it’s important to have candid conversations with your doctor and military recruiter to understand the implications of your condition within the framework of DOD policies. Transparency is essential, as the military has the final say on service eligibility.

I hope this helps!

— Kathaleen M. Schnur, MSW, LCSW

Schnur is a social worker at the Hemophilia Center of Western Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh and a member of the Social Work Working Group.