In an effort to reach a goal of recruiting 80,000 new soldiers by the end of next September, the Army is now willing to overlook some mental health issues that in the past would disqualify potential recruits.
According to a report from USA Today, the Army has lifted a 2009 ban on recruits with a history of bipolar disorder, depression, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and self-mutilation. The ban was imposed in the wake of a series of suicides involving Army personnel. The Army policy is that with "proper documentation," such as a psychiatric exam, a detailed statement from the prospective recruit, medical records, and photos submitted by the recruiter, a waiver can be granted.
U.S. Army photo by Stephen Standifird
"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," Lt. Col. Randy Taylor, an Army spokesman told USA Today. "These waivers are not considered lightly."
In October, WATM reported that the Army was making exceptions for marijuana use and relying on so-called "category IV" recruits to make its quota. The fiscal year 2017 quota was 69,000. While some point to a strong economy as the reason for the trouble making recruiting quotas, others think that other reasons could explain the difficulty.
U.S. Army National Guard photo by Pfc. Andrew Valenza
Elaine Donnelly, the President of the Center for Military Readiness, told WATM when asked for comment, "I'm wondering if the Army's dubious and possibly unprecedented 'solution' to the recruiting problem is symptomatic of the larger issue of the decline in interest among qualified potential recruits. If interest is declining steeply, along with physical capabilities needed to succeed in boot camp, why is that happening? To simply draw a correlation between a stronger economy and difficulty meeting recruiting goals overlooks the obvious: correlation is not causation."
"Perhaps the reason recruiters are struggling more than they did during strong-economy years in the past is because young people are not attracted to an organization that seems more interested in political correctness than in its primary mission – defending the country. To find out, the DoD will have to ask the right questions," she added.
Army recruits practice patrol tactics while marching during U.S. Army basic training at Fort Jackson, SC. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller.
Last month, a federal court issued an injunction preventing the Department of Defense from implementing an August 25 memo by President Trump that would have the effect of revoking the June 2016 order by President Obama allowing transgendered individuals to openly serve.