A military policy organization has decried the U.S. Army’s decision to make it easier to issue recruit waivers for self-mutilation and other serious mental health issues.
Elaine Donnelly, founder and president of the Center for Military Readiness, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that although the Army is now insisting that there hasn’t been any reversal of the ban on recruits with serious mental health issues or a history of self-mutilation, the fact is that the Army shouldn’t be issuing any waivers for these conditions at all.
“In a military environment, these and other behaviors have been disqualifying, due to negative consequences for morale and readiness, plus elevated tensions and risks for everyone,” Donnelly said.
The Army has shot back against a recent USA Today story pointing out that in August, the Army quietly allowed recruits, who have engaged in self-mutilation or suffer from other mental health issues, to seek waivers. The ban on waivers was originally imposed in 2009 after a wave of troop suicides.
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.
“Recent reports that the Army has changed medical entrance standards for those with mental health issues are inaccurate,” Seamands wrote, according to Army Times. “The Army has made no such policy change and follows the accession standards prescribed by the Department of Defense.”
Rather, Seamands noted that the Army Recruiting Command, instead of Army headquarters, will now grant waivers in certain cases to those with a history of self-mutilation and other mental health issues.
“Unfortunately, this simple, administrative change has been substantially misinterpreted,” Seamands said.
However, Army officials, regardless of level of authority, should not be granting waivers for potential recruits with drug and alcohol abuse or serious mental health issues, according to Donnelly. What this reflects is a desperation for more recruits, meaning that the number of qualified recruits applying to join the Army is clearly declining.
Downgrading the authority to issue the waivers from Army headquarters to Recruiting Command also makes it more likely that waivers will be issued.
Former Army physician Mike Simpson, who served more than three decades in the military and deployed to 17 different countries, believes that the move making it easier to issue waivers is “the exact opposite of what we should be doing.”
Simpson told The Daily Caller News Foundation that many mental health problems that are barely noticed in civilian life fully erupt in active service because of the stresses of the job.
“Few people would argue that military life isn’t stressful. It can expose any weakness in a person’s mental armor,” Simpson said. “This is particularly true today, as we are engaged in a dynamic and asymmetrical war on terror throughout the globe. Today, more than ever, we need to be recruiting the most mentally and physically resilient recruits possible for our military. Now is not a time to lower standards. On the contrary, mental and psychological screening should be even more stringent.”
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