US Army Quietly Lifts Ban on Recruits With Some Mental Health Issues


The U.S. Army said Monday it has made no changes to its policy for granting mental health waivers to recruits entering the service.

More people who've had depression and other mental health issues may now be able to join the Army due to an unannounced policy enacted in August.

Waivers will be given for people with a history of bipolar disorder, alcohol abuse, depression and more, the report says. Randy Taylor. More medical records mean leaders can make better-informed decisions about recruits with prior mental health issues.

The Army did not respond to a request for information on how many waivers had been issued for mental health issues.

The decision to lift restrictions comes as the Army will likely miss its goal of recruiting 80,000 new soldiers by September 2018.

"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.

"We're not prepared to close the door on such individuals who are otherwise medically, mentally and physically qualified for military service", he said.

Mental health waivers were banned in 2009 to stem a surge of military suicides.

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"Few people would argue that military life is stressful, and can expose any weakness in a person's mental armor", Simpson said.

According to Army guidance, potential recruits with histories of self-mutilation must provide appropriate documentation that includes include a detailed statement from the applicant, medical records, evidence from an employer if the injury was job-related, photos submitted by the recruiter and a psychiatric evaluation, and "clearance".

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

But Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Seamands, deputy chief of staff for personnel, said that despite USA Today's story, no outright bans on enlistment were lifted.

The Army has a poor history with soldiers who have been accepted under the standard bar of entry requirements.

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. "I'm just not sure that if you take someone in who is doing this things - the cost over time is very, very, very high".