Army to Allow People with Mental Health Conditions to Enlist

Army to Allow People with Mental Health Conditions to Enlist

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.

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.

Elspeth Ritchie, a retired Army colonel and psychiatrist told USA Today that people with a history of mental health problems are more likely to have those issues resurface than those who do not.

In order to meet last year's goal of 69,000 new soldiers, the Army reportedly offered large bonuses and accepted more recruits that scored poorly on aptitude tests.

U.S. Army recruits practice patrol tactics while marching during U.S. Army basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., December 6, 2006. A ban was placed on mental health waivers in 2009 amid a surge of suicide among troops, but Army representatives say lifting the ban is now possible with better access to medical records.

"The decision was primarily due to the increased availability of medical records and other data which is now more readily available", Taylor said.

Documents viewed by the paper put the onus on applicants to "provide a clear and meritorious case for why a waiver should be considered".

Taylor justified the new policy by referencing "meritorious cases" that had been disqualified due to events that had taken place when they were children.

The Army's decision has raised concerns among mental health professionals.

Lt. Col. Randy Taylor did not immediately return the Daily News' requests for comment about how many, if any, waivers have been issued since the policy change.

The real issue for me is the ability of the USA armed forces to offer those with mental-health issues real support-medical and otherwise-especially in light of what soldiers face, either those with diagnoses before they enter the armed forces or those who develop mental-health conditions after. But people who were waived for ADHD did just fine.

Kelley followed eight other US veterans to carry out shooting sprees since 2009, each case tied to inadequately-addressed mental health issues. The year before, the Army recruited 0.06 precent from Category Four.

The Army has had trouble recruiting during strong economic times, contributing to a recent decline in enrollment.

The Army is also offering more bonuses to recruits, paying $424 million in bonuses, up from $284 million in 2016.

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