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LASIK and Military Service

November 11, 2015

November is the month of Veteran’s Day, and we’d like to take the time to say thank you to all the men and women who have risked their lives in service to our country. We’d also like to look at a topic that is important to us, and to many of our active service men and women. We know that there are plenty of medical disqualifiers for joining the armed forces, and eyesight can be a major issue for many of those interested in joining the military.

But what if someone with disqualifying eyesight decides on LASIK surgery? Can they then enter the military, and what are the restrictions in place on LASIK surgery? The answer can be hard to find, and varies in different branches of the armed forces, as well as depending on what role a soldier chooses. So we’ve combed through the information and brought you the basics on LASIK eye surgery and the military.

Getting LASIK surgery before attempting to join the military will not keep you out, but there are limits placed on the roles that someone with LASIK surgery may be assigned. For instance, having LASIK surgery is technically a disqualifier for the Navy and Marine Corps, but applicants can obtain a medical waiver. However, LASIK surgery will still disqualify a person from roles in aviation, diving, and special forces, due to the concern about after effects in certain conditions. However, the surgery is not a disqualifier for many other combat and noncombat roles.

  • The Navy and Marine Corps may actually pay for LASIK surgery for soldiers, provided they are not in aviation, diving, or special forces, and they enroll in the Navy LASIK Study program.
  • The Army also has similar requirements regarding LASIK surgery. The surgery may be disqualifying for aviation, diving, and special forces, but is now allowed for most occupational specialties.

While the surgery is offered for active-duty soldiers in the Army, the availability is limited, and there is a list of priority. First are combat arms soldiers whose mission involves operations at the line of battle or behind hostile lines. Second are combat support and combat service support unit personnel who are currently assigned to a division or separate brigade. And the lowest priority are other active duty personnel.

Also, to be selected for the surgery, soldiers must meet additional criteria:

  • At least 18 months remaining on active duty at the time of surgery, or in conjunction with an executed reenlistment.
  • At least 12 months in a first- or second-priority unit (as listed above).
  • Ability to return for follow-up visits for post-operative care as specified by the surgeon.

So while there are still some positions that consider LASIK surgery a disqualifier, the military seems to be embracing the surgery because of its benefits to soldiers in the field. Not having to worry about glasses or goggles on the front line is one less distraction for soldiers in the field.

If you have any more questions about LASIK surgery, for military personnel or otherwise, contact OCLI today.

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