Community Forum Archive

The Epilepsy Community Forums are closed, and the information is archived. The content in this section may not be current or apply to all situations. In addition, forum questions and responses include information and content that has been generated by epilepsy community members. This content is not moderated. The information on these pages should not be substituted for medical advice from a healthcare provider. Experiences with epilepsy can vary greatly on an individual basis. Please contact your doctor or medical team if you have any questions about your situation. For more information, learn about epilepsy or visit our resources section.

Air Force Enlistment - medical waiver for someone with MTLE and siezure free?

Sat, 03/07/2020 - 03:15
My 18 year daughter was diagnosed with Mesial Temporal Lobe Epilepsy perhaps five years ago. She is extremely fortunate in that she only ever experienced "simple partial seizures", now call Focal Onset Aware Seizures. These are non-motor and typically manifest as auras / deja vu and perhaps gastric upset and sometimes a taste in her mouth. She is blessed with gifted, engaged, and caring neurologist that runs a Level 2 Epilepsy Center at the Jersey Shore. In fact, he has had such a positive impact and influence on her that at his urging she has decided to pursue a medical career as a physician after shadowing him for a summer at the Epilepsy Center - as a freshman in high school. For a variety of reasons, my daughter has decided to join the military to pursue her dreams of becoming a physician. She wants to join the Air Force through ROTC. We just came to the awful realization that diagnosis and treatment of "epilepsy" automatically disqualifies one for military service with exceptions few and far between from the little research I've been able to do thus far. Given the fact that her seizures are non-motor and she is fully aware, is a waiver possible for Air Force duty? She does not wish to become a pilot, she is interested in genetics and regeneration research - her own science research landed her a spot at the Intel International Science Fair. She's a competitive swimmer and captain of her team, an outstanding student and one of the premier technical high schools in the states, a recognized science fair winner, etc. She is treated successfully with Lamotrigine and been seizure free since being on the meds - even for a period of several months when she (without telling her mother and I...) she'd stop taking her meds. My reading of the acceptance criteria is not encouraging. Unless you have been seizure free at least five years **without medication** it's an automatic disqualification. Given this, my questions: 1. Has medical clearance for military service - Air Force in particular - become any more nuanced, in that there can be a distinction made for those whose epilepsy only manifests in non-motor symptoms and remain fully aware and functional? As an example, my daughter had a seizure at 11 years of age in the middle of the Junior Olympics swimming Fly and finished the race without issue. In fact, she's been a certified diver since age 12 and is now an Advanced Open Water / Nitrox certified and is more comfortable 120 feet down than many folks are sitting at their dining room tables. (Our neurologist - begrudgingly - approved of her diving activities with us... she's logged maybe a hundred dives) 2. Is it possible to call her seizure disorder something else that won't automatically put her in the Rejected category? She is in outstanding physical condition. But, she has been diagnosed and is on medication. Is there an out? Other than lying and risking dishonorable discharge?? 3. Is there a strategy anyone has successfully employed to gain enlistment in the service as someone with epilepsy? Particularly the Air Force? I've read that an appeal from an expert witness testifying to her fitness for duty might work, then there is the possibility of sponsorship by a congressman, etc. Other options?? Most of what I've read online is at least five years old and I'm sure the situation changes over time. I certainly appreciate the military's concerns about the availability of medication especially for those with Motor symptoms. However, in my daughters case, her medical condition and the military career path she'd like to pursue do not seem to automatically preclude service. She poses no risk to anyone around her. I'd really appreciate anyone with experience that can suggest resources. I'm certain her neurologist will support her petition for a waiver. I'd like to know what, if anything, we can do to stack the deck in her favor. She'd be an asset to the service, would be thrilled to serve her country - as her mother and I both would be - and it would be loss for all if she isn't permitted to serve. I'd sincerely appreciate any thoughts or suggestions that might help. Thanks so much... Mike


Your daughter sounds like an

Submitted by Ternst on Sat, 2020-03-07 - 16:10
Your daughter sounds like an amazing young woman. My son joined the Army with the intention of being a reservist. He suffered a tonic clonic seizure while in basic training. The military discharged him for medical reasons and their insurance refused to pay the hospital bill. This was his first seizure. We were completely caught off guard by his diagnosis. He desperately wants to join again, but was told the same information as your research- no unless he was 5 years seizure and meds free.I wish your daughter well. Sometimes the plans we have for ourselves or our children take a different course, but can still be a wonderful life. 

Hi Mike, I’m a service

Submitted by Patriotrehab on Sat, 2020-03-07 - 23:23
Hi Mike, I’m a service-disabled woman veteran of the U.S. Air Force. My epilepsy started as a result of medical negligence while I was in service as a medical technician. I now work in private practice as a licensed clinical social worker and certified rehabilitation counselor. Even though I had ongoing seizures where I maintained awareness they still wanted to bring me back into service after my temporary retirement. They do look at things on a case by case basis, especially for some positions like doctors. However, there’s no guarantee. I will say this though, there’s a lot about the military that young girls like myself and your daughter don’t know when they go in and it can be very dangerous and disappointing for them. Your daughter can serve in many ways, perhaps even as a physician especially if she’s got a great doctor like that willing to back her up when it comes time to fill out those physical exams forms. Maybe she could work at the Veterans Health Administration or as a civilian doctor for the military if the Air Force doesn’t work out. I definitely don’t want you or her to lie nor do I think calling it something else is a good idea because seizures are dangerous and they can change if she’s not taking her medication just for the sake of getting into basic training. The stress and over exertion of basic training can lower a person’s seizure threshold. I certainly understand how disappointing it is to not be able to do what you want to do because other people lack understanding about your health. My advice is for her to pursue what she wants to do, but if the door is closed with the military...that just means it’s time to look for another door that is open and waiting for her to pass through.

Hi,Thank you for posting and

Submitted by Anonymous on Mon, 2020-03-09 - 08:53
Hi,Thank you for posting and sharing about your daughter, she sounds like she’s a very bright and talented young woman! Both Gianna and Tonia have offered some wonderful advice and suggestions in their comments. As you stated, regulations governing admission into the armed services state that an applicant will be considered on an individual basis if there has been no seizure recurrence since age five, or the applicant has been seizure-free without medication for the five years immediately prior to the application. People who have been denied entrance into the armed services based on their history of epilepsy may wish to protest their disqualification by writing to their elected officials as they may be in the best position to effect change. . As Gianna mentioned there are many different capacities in which your daughter can serve and it’s important that she has a good healthcare team that is continuing to work closely with her. Your daughter may want to consider seeing a vocational rehabilitation counselor to help her navigate her career: . In many communities the local Epilepsy Foundation: offers programs and resources to help connect you all with vocational counselors, and explore the employment section of our website, for additional resources and tips on how to help manage the impact of epilepsy on work: .It’s common for those who are in a caregiver role to feel overwhelmed. It’s important to remember that you are not alone, and that you’re and making your health and overall well-being a priority. may also be helpful to connect with other parents who may have similar experiences, to ask questions, find & give support to each other, by visiting: . Additionally, you may always contact our 24/7 Helpline, where trained information specialists are available to answer your questions, offer help, hope, support, guidance, and access to national and local resources. 1-800-332-1000, or

Sign Up for Emails

Stay up to date with the latest epilepsy news, stories from the community, and more.