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Army Mental Health Ban Relaxed Amid Recruiting Push

Army Mental Health Ban Relaxed Amid Recruiting Push
The U.S. Army is relaxing its ban on mental health issues in an effort to recruit more people. (Zim235/Dreamstime)

By    |   Monday, 13 November 2017 02:01 PM

The U.S. Army is loosening its mental health ban on people with a history of bipolar disorder, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and "self-mutilation" with waivers in hopes of meeting recruiting goals, USA Today reported in an exclusive Monday.

The Army is facing a daunting recruitment goal of 80,000 new soldiers by Sept. 18. The military branch adjusted standards last year to meet last year's goal of 69,000, accepting more recruits who did poorly on aptitude tests and giving waivers for past marijuana use, along with monetary bonuses.

The Army initially issued the ban on mental health waivers in 2009 because of an epidemic of suicides among troops.

The unannounced policy change was enacted in August, according to documents obtained by USA Today.

"The decision was primarily due to the increased availability of medical records and other data which is now more readily available," Lt. Col. Randy Taylor, an Army spokesman, told USA Today in a statement. "These records allow Army officials to better document applicant medical histories."

The Army Times reported in June that the military branch had started offering "big bucks" bonuses and major incentives for soldiers, including a fast-track to active duty for some. Army ranks were pushing to increase from 460,000 soldiers to 476,000; the National Guard from 335,000 to 343,000; and the Army Reserve from 195,000 to 199,000.

The active Army had reached 55 percent of its recruiting and 73 percent of its retention goals as of June 2, according to personnel officials, the Army Times noted.

Army recruiters had hoped to get a bump in numbers over the summer after high school graduations wrapped up.

"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. "Really, we've got our biggest months ahead of us for recruiting numbers."

Taylor told USA Today many "meritorious cases" had been found among highly qualified applicants who had been disqualified because of events that had occurred when they were young children.

"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," Taylor added. "These waivers are not considered lightly."

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The U.S. Army is loosening its mental health ban on people with a history of bipolar disorder, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and "self-mutilation" with waivers in hopes of meeting recruiting goals, USA Today reported in an exclusive Monday.
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2017-01-13
Monday, 13 November 2017 02:01 PM
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