Revising Medical Fitness Policies Could Provide Additional Quality Recruits at Less Cost Than Enlistment Incentives

FPCD-82-13: Published: Apr 7, 1982. Publicly Released: Apr 7, 1982.

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GAO reviewed the entry medical fitness policies of the armed services.

The services could increase the number of quality recruits by easing their medical fitness standards and by providing treatment for readily correctable medical conditions and physical defects. In fiscal year 1980, 61,000 applicants were disqualified for failure to meet the armed services' entry medical fitness standards. Because recruiters referred them to examining stations for medical examinations, these individuals apparently had no obvious disqualifying medical conditions or physical defects. If the less restrictive medical fitness standards currently used for service in particular skills were applied to entry medical fitness standards, a greater number of quality applicants could be enlisted. The standards are based on the ability to complete basic training, even though basic training represents only 5 percent of a typical 3-year enlistment, and fewer than one-third of the basic training program hours involve physically demanding activities. Relaxing the current maximum and minimum entry weight standards would result in about 1,000 additional quality recruits entering the Army each year. If the Department of Defense (DOD) provided treatment to recruits for readily correctable medical conditions and physical defects, some additional in-service health care costs and time lost from duty could result. However, the costs would be less than the costs of alternative enlistment incentives.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not concur with the recommendation. GAO believes that the recommendation was valid at the time of the report but, in view of improved recruiting results, the recommendation is being dropped. If recruiting becomes a problem again, GAO will followup on this issue.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Army, as Executive Agent for DOD-wide regulations on entry medical fitness standards, to develop and implement on a trial basis: (1) less restrictive entry medical fitness standards for quality applicants; and (2) a corrective medical treatment program for quality recruits who currently would be disqualified from military service for readily correctable medical conditions and physical defects.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The fiscal year 1984 budget presentation to Congress has already taken place. There is no benefit to any further followup.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should report to Congress, as part of the fiscal year 1984 DOD budget presentation, on the costs and benefits of the two trial programs to increase the number of quality recruits and the desirability of extending the test to the other services. This should include documented data on time lost from duty and health care, using both military and civilian facilities in the event that the Army chooses to contract out medical treatment.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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