Army to allow recruits with prior mental health, drug abuse issues

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Most likely in its quest to make a stated goal of recruiting 80,000 new soldiers by next year, the Army quietly loosened its rules in order to allow those with a history of self-mutilation, bipolar disorder, depression and drug and alcohol abuse to join its ranks through waivers.

The new policy, enacted in August, went unannounced. To meet last year's goal of 69,000 new recruits, they accepted recruits with lower aptitude scores, granted more waivers for marijuana use, and offered hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses. The Army says re-opening the waiver process has been made feasible by increased access to potential recruits' medical information, according to Army spokesperson Lt. Col. One of those soldiers joined the Army after receiving waivers for minor criminal activity and poor educational background, USA Today reported.

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".

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

U.S. Army recruits practice patrol tactics while marching during U.S. Army basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., December 6, 2006.

"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. "The Army has made no such policy change and follows the accession standards prescribed by the Department of Defense".

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"There is a push, I think, in the minds of a young person, that they're going to have to figure out a path for the future", Brian Sutton, spokesman the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, told the Army Times in June.

The Army would not disclose how many waivers have been issued since the policy change. For example, in 2006 an Iraqi girl was raped and her family killed by US soldiers.

"A relatively small percentage of the American population serves in the US military", Rothenberg said.

USA Today also uncovered data indicating the increase in acceptance of marginally-qualified applicants.

The Army has had trouble recruiting during strong economic times, contributing to a recent decline in enrollment. The year before, the Army recruited 0.06 precent from Category Four. While in 2014, the Army paid $8.2 million in bonuses, the number skyrocketed to $424 in 2017.

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