NORTH CHICAGO, Ill –
When an applicant qualifies for military service at a MEPS, they sign their contract, take the Oath of Enlistment, and go home not as an applicant but as a future service member enrolled in their Service’s Delayed Entry Program (DEP). If an applicant is medically disqualified at a MEPS, they go home without entering the DEP even if they are likely to receive a waiver for their disqualifying medical condition.
On Aug. 3, USMEPCOM and Army Recruiting Command implemented a program to allow applicants with frequently waivered medically disqualified conditions to conditionally enroll in the DEP, known as Conditional DEP or ConDEP. While the applicant awaits adjudication of their medical waiver, the future service member can start investing in their future careers as members of the DEP. The Navy and Air Force began using the program Oct. 3 with the Marine Corps following Oct. 11.
“The goal of ConDEP is to allow applicants to process in a one-time visit, saving time for the applicants, MEPS personnel and recruiters, building a sense of belonging for applicants awaiting medical waivers and increasing retention,” said U.S. Army Col. Megan Stallings, USMEPCOM commander. “What this is not, is a lowering of standards to enter the military. The waiver still must be approved officially by the Service waiver authority.”
As of Nov. 28, 1,132 applicants have been granted Conditional DEP status.
ConDEP has proven to be successful in reducing delays between the medical exam and enlistment for an applicant affected by certain disqualifying conditions.
"The Army has listed at least 53 clinical diagnoses that qualify for a ‘conditional enlistment’ on the basis of being our more frequently waived conditions,” said Lt. Col Kathleen Ryan, U.S. Army Recruiting Command command surgeon. “To date, we have a proven 85% approval rate for all of our ConDep applicants, and the majority have been approved within a week. For these applicants, and for the Army, it's a quick win."
Each participating Service developed a list of disqualifying medical conditions that they waive most of the time. Some of the conditions included by all Services include vitamin D deficiency and some skin conditions like eczema.
Although the program was initiated to streamline the administrative process for recruiting partners, applicants gain both time and a sense of stability from ConDEP. A waiver is still needed before an applicant can ship to basic training, but with ConDEP, they sign their initial contract and begin to partake in DEP activities.
Once in their Service’s DEP, an applicant participates in training through a local recruiting office before leaving for basic training. DEP members typically participate in training once or twice a month, where they can become familiar with military expectations and practice physical training.
“Joining the military can be a difficult step for people to take. Their apprehension tends to go away and their pride starts to build when they contract and do the oath of enlistment,” said ConDEP project lead Ryan Danielsen, management analyst, J-3/5/7. “Getting an applicant through the MEPS their first visit is going to help keep them interested in the service and save them from having to return for another medical appointment.”