Army relaxes rule limiting sign-ups of people with mental health issues
The Army quietly relaxed standards over the summer to allow potential recruits to receive waivers for a host of previous mental health issues — including self-mutilation.
A 2017 recruiting goal of 80,000 new soldiers through September appears to be at the root of a decision to reverse a 2009 waiver ban on mental health issues. Documents obtained over the weekend by USA Today show a willingness to consider applicants with a history of bipolar disorder, depression and drug and alcohol abuse.
“It is a red flag,” Elspeth Ritchie, a psychiatrist who retired from the Army as a colonel in 2010, told the newspaper over the weekend. “The question is, how much of a red flag is it?”
Army spokesman Randy Taylor said the “primary” cause for the policy shift in August was access to medical records.
“These records allow Army officials to better document applicant medical histories,” Mr. Taylor said. “With the additional data available, Army officials can now consider applicants as a whole person, allowing a series of Army leaders and medical professionals to review the case fully to assess the applicant’s physical limitations or medical conditions and their possible impact upon the applicant’s ability to complete training and finish an Army career. These waivers are not considered lightly.”
Army officials did not respond to USA Today’s inquiry as to how many waivers have been issued since the change in policy.