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Will My Military Leaders Learn About My Rehab History?

& Medically Reviewed by Jenni Jacobsen, LSW

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Last Updated - 03/02/2024

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Updated 03/02/2024

When it comes to applying for military service, full transparency about your rehab history is essential.

If you’re considering a career in the military and have struggled with substance use in the past, concerns about the military uncovering your treatment history may weigh on your mind. Many individuals who’ve struggled with addiction worry that seeking help might jeopardize their military aspirations, leading them to ask, “Will the military find out if I’ve been to rehab?”

Can the Military Unearth Your Rehab Records?

When embarking on the journey to enlist in the military, you’re obligated to provide a comprehensive medical history to your recruiter. This entails granting permission for the release of your medical records to the Department of Defense when enlisting. The most prudent course of action is honesty regarding your history of substance use treatment, as the military mandates the disclosure of your entire medical history.

It’s crucial to bear in mind that a history of drug or alcohol addiction can serve as grounds for disqualification from military service. Your case’s recruiting officer will scrutinize your medical history, assessing your unique history. In certain situations, you may qualify for a medical waiver if a history of addiction disqualifies you from serving.

Does Rehab Appear on Your Record?

Participation in a drug or alcohol rehab program will not appear on a criminal record, as seeking treatment is not a crime. Medical records are typically held in confidence unless you grant permission for their release to a third party. While your rehab history won’t find its way onto a criminal record or background check, a history of drug-related offenses may be accessible. If you’ve faced drug-related charges, the military can access this information when you apply for enlistment.

How Does Rehab Enhance Your Military Prospects?

While you might be apprehensive about disclosing your history of substance use treatment to the military, honesty remains the best policy. Demonstrating to your recruiter that substance use is no longer an issue can enhance your prospects of being accepted into the military. Completion of rehab serves as evidence of your commitment to personal growth, and the resilience required to overcome addiction aligns with the values cherished within military culture.

Substance Use Among Active-Duty Military Personnel

Although current drug use, including testing positive for illegal substances, can lead to medical disqualification from military enlistment, it’s a harsh reality that active-duty military personnel aren’t immune to addiction. Drug and alcohol misuse can become coping mechanisms for the stress associated with military life.

Alcohol Misuse in the Military

Research involving active-duty military personnel paints a concerning picture, with nearly one-third of this group engaging in binge drinking, and over one-third displaying signs of unhealthy drinking or probable alcohol use disorder. The exposure to combat can lead to trauma, prompting some military members to turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism. The rates of binge drinking among military personnel slightly surpass those in the general population.

Recognizing the high rates 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 reveal that illicit drug use remains uncommon, with less than 1% of military members reporting engagement in such behavior. However, prescription drug misuse is more prevalent within this population, with around 4% of active-duty personnel admitting to misusing one or more prescription medications.

The most commonly misused prescription medications in military circles are prescription pain relievers. A significant portion of opioid addictions in this group originates from the misuse of pain medications often prescribed to alleviate injuries sustained during deployment. Recognizing the dangers associated with opioid misuse, the Department of Defense has launched prevention initiatives.

The military also mandates a 26-panel drug testing regimen for active-duty personnel, which has recently been extended to include 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 certain scenarios, 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 abuse 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 multitude of treatment options awaits military personnel seeking help for addiction. Tricare insurance offers coverage for various services related to substance use disorders, including medication-assisted treatment, inpatient and residential services, medical detox, intensive outpatient care, and partial hospitalization programs.

At The Recovery Village at Baptist Health, our programs are thoughtfully designed to cater to the unique needs of veterans and service members. Our comprehensive rehab services encompass medical detox, inpatient care, outpatient services, and co-occurring disorders treatment for military personnel dealing with both addiction and co-occurring disorders like PTSD. Our services prioritize trauma-informed care, ensuring that veterans receive addiction treatment that meets their unique needs.