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Army pushes back on reports of mental health waivers

15 November 2017, 02:03 | Melissa Porter

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Recruits with history of depression bipolar disorder can get waivers to join Army report

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain has threatened to block Pentagon nominees until the Army briefs his panel on a newly relaxed recruiting policy that would allow those with mental health issues to serve, Inside Defense reported on Tuesday.

The statement, however, didn't address whether the Army granted waivers to individuals who had practiced self-mutilation, such as slashing the skin with sharp instruments - a behavior that can signal deeper mental health issues, according to USA Today. Randy Taylor. More medical records mean leaders can make better-informed decisions about recruits with prior mental health issues.

The Army has not released a total number of waivers, but Ritchie believes lifting the ban is the Army's attempt to widen their pool of applicants.

The decision to open Army recruiting to people with those conditions was made to meet the demanding goal of recruiting 80,000 new soldiers through 2018.

Taylor said many "meritorious cases" had been found of highly qualified applicants who had been disqualified because of events that had occurred when they were young children. The Army issued the ban on waivers in 2009 amid an epidemic of suicides among troops.

"There's so many gradations of mental illness", Edwards said. Typically, when the service is seeking to grow, it accepts more recruits who need waivers to enlist or commission and it takes fewer when the service downsizes.

But some of the mental health conditions cited in the USA Today report could be problematic if the Army is considering them, mental health professionals told Stars and Stripes.

"Recent reports that the Army has changed medical entrance standards for those with mental health issues are inaccurate", Seamands wrote, according to Army Times.

"The question is, how much of a red flag is it?"

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.

McCain, who held up several Trump nominees last month until he could be briefed to his satisfaction on the administration's approach to Afghanistan, said he would "stop confirming people for jobs" if the Army did not communicate with him and the committee on its new recruiting policy.

To avoid repeats of past failures, the Army has laid out extensive requirements a potential recruit must fulfill, including "appropriate documentation" of the mental health condition, a series of memos obtained by USA Today disclosed. But people who were waived for ADHD did just fine.

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