The US Army is once again drastically lowering the bar to meet recruiting standards, this time offering waivers to potential enlistees with with a history of “self-mutilation,” bipolar disorder, depression and drug and alcohol abuse.
The decision to open the doors for those with certain mental health issues comes as the Army struggles to recruit 80,000 more recruits from a population that -be it nature or nurture- is largely unfit for military service.
In addition to mental health case waivers, the Army has also lightened up on people who have used marijuana and fared poorly on aptitude tests.
According to Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Randy Taylor, the waivers for mental health are doable due to better access to individual troops’ medical records.
“The decision was primarily due to the increased availability of medical records and other data which is now more readily available,” Taylor’s statement to USA Today said. “These records allow Army officials to better document applicant medical histories.”
However, not everyone thinks bringing in the new recruits is such a good idea. Enter retired Army Colonel Elspeth Ritchie, a psychiatrist who is an expert on waivers.
Ritchie noted that people with a history of mental health issues are more likely to have resurfacing issues.
“It is a red flag,” she said. “The question is, how much of a red flag is it?”
One particular red flag is self-mutilation, which can be most disruptive to military operations.
However, Taylor claims that the new medical records systems and approach by the Army, the situation will be handled properly.
“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 said. “These waivers are not considered lightly.”
Between a strong economy and the uncertainty surrounding the next potential war, it is no surprise that recruiting numbers are low. Combine that with the number of American civilians who are not physically or mentally able to join and it presents a perfect storm of recruiting shortfalls.
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