Published: Wed, November 15, 2017
Health | By Jay Jacobs

McCain threatens to block nominees over Army waiver report

McCain threatens to block nominees over Army waiver report

The U.S. Army quietly made it easier this summer for individuals with some history of mental health problems to enlist in the service, but a top general pushed back Tuesday on a report the Army had relaxed standards to meet increased recruiting goals.

Those with a history of drug and alcohol abuse, self-mutilation, bipolar disorder and depression can seek waivers to join the Army, according to documents obtained by USA Today. Randy Taylor told USA Today that the policy change, which went into effect in August, "was primarily due to the increased availability of medical records and other data which is now more readily available".

The Center for Military Readiness, a right-wing military policy organization, also announced its opposition to the new policy, saying the army should think seriously about why qualified recruits, as opposed to those with serious mental issues, are not signing up in sufficient quantities. The report cites the Army's recruiting goal of 18,000 new soldiers by September as one of the justifications for the change.

"The burden of proof is on the applicant to provide a clear and meritorious case for why a waiver should be considered", an Army memo said.

Mental illness behaviors can also disrupt the functioning of units and affect other soldiers.

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?

This is the second year in a row that the Army has offered waivers to those traditionally seen as less-desirable applicants. Appropriate documentation will be reviewed by the Army and a psychological evaluation will be completed, officials told USA Today.

The new policy enables the Army to widen its pool of applicants, according to Elspeth Ritchie, an expert on waivers for military service.

For example, a history of self-mutilation, such as cutting or burning, typically is a chronic condition and a sign of additional mental health problems, said Dr. Charles A. Morgan, a forensic psychiatrist who teaches at the University of New Haven and Yale University in CT.

From 2016 to 2017, the percentage of Category Four recruits - referring to those who scored in the lowest category on aptitude tests - jumped from 0.6 percent to 1.9 percent.

The Pentagon mandates that each service accept no more than 4 percent from Category Four.

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

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