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US Army Lifts Ban on Recruits With Mental Health History

14 November 2017

A statement from Lt. Gen. Thomas C. Seamands, deputy chief of staff for Army personnel (G1), came a day after USA Today reported that people with a history of self-mutilation, bipolar disorder, depression, and drug and alcohol abuse can now seek waivers to join the service under an unannounced policy enacted in August.

The Army did not provide information about how many waivers, if any, have been issued since the policy change, USA Today reported.

Randy Taylor. More medical records mean leaders can make better-informed decisions about recruits with prior mental health issues. The Army already lowered entry requirements to meet last year's goal, accepting recruits with poor scores on aptitude tests and issuing hundreds of marijuana-use waivers.

"What the Army has done is change the delegation authority over who may consider a waiver, allowing those requests to be reviewed and approved by U.S. Army Recruiting Command, or in the case of the National Guard, by the State Adjutant General".

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The Army issued a ban on waivers in 2009 due to high suicide rates among troops. The year before, the Army recruited 0.06 precent from Category Four. Elspeth Ritchie, a psychiatrist who retired from the Army as a colonel in 2010, told USA Today recruits with a history of mental illness for more likely to have relapses.

My 2 cents: Do we want people to get help for mental health or keep it in the shadows in stigma (and therefore untreated) because they know they will be precluded from doing those things that they want to do such as join the Army?

Taylor, the Army spokesman, said there had been cases where highly qualified applicants had been passed over because of incidents in their childhoods and that new information allowed the Army to evaluate the "whole person" when considering a waiver.

The Army is facing a daunting recruitment goal of 80,000 new soldiers by September 18. For example, in 2006 an Iraqi girl was raped and her family killed by USA soldiers.

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The most recent US mass shooter Devin Kelley, who killed more than two dozen people at a small Texas church, had been diagnosed with mental illness during his time serving in the Air Force, and escaped from a mental health facility after being caught sneaking guns on to his base to kill his superiors. It also offered almost three times as many waivers for marijuana use in 2017 as it did in 2016.

The Army took 1.9% of its almost 69,000 recruits from Category Four, which refers to prospects who scored in the lower one-third of standard military exams.

The Defense Department limits each service branch to a maximum of 4% of each recruiting class drawn from Category Four.

The Army has had trouble recruiting during strong economic times, contributing to a recent decline in enrollment.

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"In fiscal year 2017, it paid out $424 million in bonuses, up from $284 million in 2016".

US Army Lifts Ban on Recruits With Mental Health History