Army re­laxes rule lim­it­ing sign-ups of peo­ple with men­tal health is­sues

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - — Dou­glas Ernst

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.

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