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The UK Armed Forces and epilepsy

These pages are about The UK Armed Forces. If you are looking for information about working for the armed forces in another country, please contact your local epilepsy organisation

The Armed Forces include the army, navy and air force.

You would NOT be able to join the Armed Forces if:

  • You have a diagnosis of epilepsy or
  • You have had more than one seizure since your sixth birthday

The possibilities of joining the Armed Forces if you have epilepsy are very limited. They are listed below.

You WOULD be able to join the Armed forces if:

  • You had a febrile seizure before your sixth birthday and no seizures since
  • You had typical childhood absence seizures starting before the age of 10 and no seizures or treatment for the last five years
  • You had a confirmed diagnosis of benign rolandic epilepsy of childhood and no seizures or treatment for the last five years

You MAY be able to join the Armed forces for full or possibly restricted service if:

  • You had a single seizure more than 10 years ago and no seizures or treatment since
  • You have had a provoked seizure. This is defined as a seizure with a specific cause. This situation will be considered on a case by case basis. What has caused the seizure will be especially relevant.

Someone who has had a single or provoked seizure will be referred to the Single Service Occupational Physician responsible for the selection of recruits. They will decide the type of service suitable for you.

Seizures when you are already employed by the Armed Forces

If you have only had one seizure, you are usually downgraded for 18 months. You may also be restricted in driving and handling weapons.

If you have had more than one seizure you are usually considered unfit for any trade in the Armed Forces.

If it is discovered, after being employed, that you have not mentioned a disqualifying medical condition that you knew about beforehand, then you may be dishonourably discharged for fraudulent enlistment.

For more general information, including the number for your local Recruiting Office:

Army careers office:                 0845 600 8080
Royal Air Force careers office: 0845 605 5555
Royal Navy careers office:        0845 607 5555

If you would like to see this information with references, visit the Advice and information references section of our website. See Armed Forces and epilepsy.

Code: 
F082.03

This information has been produced under the terms of The Information Standard.

  • Updated June 2014
    To be reviewed June 2017

Comments: read the 8 comments or add yours

Comments

Hi, im 22 and i was diagnosed with epilepsy when i was 15. I know the trigger and cause if my seizures and can control on my own accord but my consultant insists i take medication. He is hoping to wein me off it in the near future. I have always wanted to be in the army and wondered if there was any chance of any position considering my condition.

Submitted by rhys on

Hi Rhys

There are really limited circumstances in which someone with epilepsy can take up any position in the Armed Forces. If you didn’t start with epilepsy till you were 15 I’m afraid you don’t meet their requirements.

I really hope you can find something else you’ll enjoy.

Cherry
Epilepsy Action Advice and Information Team

Submitted by Cherry, Epileps... on

My sons army application has been rejected because he was diagnosed with mild epilepsy at the age of 8. after 2 years of taking Lamotrogen tablets he was weaned off them and hasn't had any symptoms in10 years. He is the fittest person I know and had his heart set on the armed forces and so their zero tolerance policy seems very unfair to me and even sounds like discrimination. Is there anything we can do?

Submitted by adrian pearson on

Hello Adrian

The Armed Forces criteria have been in place for a long time and they are usually very strict with how they apply them. It can be difficult to argue a case for appeal with them, especially as we are unable to say when these rules were last reviewed. I understand this must be very frustrating for your son.

In the last few years the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) have issued a new definition of epilepsy. This includes the timeframe for when they would consider a person to have grown out of their epilepsy (known as in remission). They recognise that for some people epilepsy develops in childhood, but acknowledge that a person can out-grow it as they get older. Maybe you could contact the Armed Forces medical team highlighting these guidelines and request that they reconsider.

Although we would be unable to comment on specific cases, we could offer general guidance about this to the medical team so you could also direct them to our helpline.

If we can be of any more help, please feel free to contact us again, either by email or the Epilepsy Action Helpline freephone 0808 800 5050.

Karen
Epilepsy Action Advice & Information Team

Submitted by Karen, Epilepsy... on

Hi,
My seizures do not effect my cognitive function, my consciousness, or my ability to function perfectly normally whilst having one; the full extent of my "seizures" is a nice tingly feeling on half my body....wish I had never gone to the GP to have it checked out, as he referred my to neurologist who picked it up on an EEG....and now I'm labelled as "epileptic". It's been a battle to get my driving license back, but DVLA have accepted that the nature of my seizures does not really have any impact at all. Is there ANY chance at all that the forces would ever consider these types of situations, or is it likely that this will be a blanket "No" for anyone who has been identified as having "seizure activity" in the brain as an adult? I am not even allowed to work in a logistics based role with any armed forces, and it just seems due to a ridiculous and outdated policy that has not progressed at the same rate as research and science.
If I were to start some kind of petition to request they at least consider reviewing this, then who would i address this to?
Jon

Submitted by Jon on

As a former TA soldier I can submit that having any history of epilepsy will deny you any position in the Armed Forces and this is includes the Reserves and even assisting the Cadet Forces as a Cadet Forces Adult Volunteer instructor, it's sad but that's how it is, my advice would be find something else which can fulfill you and it''s not to say you can't also apply to be a Special Constable but even than medical criteria may be stringent for a diagnosis of epilepsy.

Submitted by Joseph Findeis on

Hi Jon
As you have seen, the armed forces do have strict criteria for who can join. If a person has been diagnosed with epilepsy, or had a seizure since their sixth birthday, then the possibilities for a role within the armed forces are very limited.


The best thing would possibly be for you to talk it through with your local recruiting office, or the medical team within the service you are interested in. This would give you chance to talk it through, and understand their final decision. You may also be able to ask whether they have an appeals procedure too.

Karen
Epilepsy Action Advice & Information Team

 

Submitted by Karen, Epilepsy... on

I'm 16 and had a first seziure like around 2 Years ago so when I was around 14 and lately I've had 6 seizures altogether and I haven't long joined My RAF Cadets Squadron? I'm confused on what to do next and I know I don't meet the requirements to join RAF since I was diagnosed today after having a 2nd eeg scan and now I'm on medication would I still be eligable to stay In RAF Cadets in the UK?

Submitted by Michaelfus19 on